The state of Maryland continues to make progress with its fledgling medical cannabis regime, with the state announcing Monday the names of the first companies licensed by the state to produce the substance.
Thirty businesses in total were approved by the state to produce and process medical cannabis, with many of the winning applicants having ties to the state’s legislators. The state has not yet approved dispensaries for the sale of cannabis, meaning that the substance is unlikely to be made available to consumers until mid-2017.
“I’m excited that we have a great number of outstanding companies willing to help sick people in Maryland,” said Paul W. Davies, chairman of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), the body tasked with approving licenses for applicants.
Nearly 150 applicants put in for growers licenses with the MMCC, with 15 ultimately chosen; fifteen processors were also chosen from the list of 124, who will be responsible for distilling cannabis plants into oils, pills, tinctures, and other cannabis-based products. Seven companies were approved to complete both the growth and processing processes.
Maryland has placed a premium on allowing broad access to medical cannabis among patients. This, according to observers within and without the industry, is what separates it from other state programs that have found difficulty in gaining financial traction.
“It’s failed in other states because they’ve been too restrictive about the kinds of diseases and ailments that could be utilized by physicians, and I think in Maryland they’ve taken the opposite approach, which generates the interest because they appreciate that Maryland is forward thinking on this,” said Gerard Evans, a lobbyist for Holistic Industries, one of the companies awarded with a grower license.
Many of the winning applicants were notable for their deep connections to the state’s political leaders. One example is Doctors Orders Maryland LLC, one of the companies selected for a growers license: the company hired as clinical director of one of its affiliated dispensaries Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County). Morhaim, a physician, has been the state legislature’s leading advocate for medical cannabis and has drawn scrutiny for his relationships within the cannabis industry.
Another example is Holistic Industries, which received a letter of recommendation written on its behalf by state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller.
Maryland first passed its medical cannabis law in 2013. Under the system, patients may receive prescriptions from physicians, podiatrist, nurse practitioners, nurse midwives, and dentists.
Companies that received the go-ahead from the MMCC must pass one more round of reviews and inspections — which includes background checks and reviews of financial records — before they are eligible to fully participate in the program.