There were 811 applications for up to 109 possible licenses. Last week, the commission gave initial approval to 102 dispensaries in a blind application review that had applicant names and locations redacted.
“These qualified entities will be on the front line providing medical cannabis to qualified patients in Maryland,” Dr. Paul Davies, the commission chairman said. “They will have a tremendous responsibility in serving the legitimate needs of those patients that seek medical treatment.”
Each of Maryland’s 47 state Senate districts can have up to two dispensaries, and all but two districts have two applicants named as finalists. The two districts with only one finalist are District 2 in Washington County and District 41 in Baltimore city.
Maryland’s medical cannabis initiative has been bedeviled by setbacks. The state approved its first medical marijuana law in 2013. The effort stalled, however, because it required academic medical centers to run the programs, and none stepped forward. The law was changed in 2014 to allow doctors certified by the commission to recommend marijuana for patients with debilitating, chronic and severe illnesses.
The regulatory process also has been mired in controversy this year. Three companies are suing the commission over the licensing process for up to 15 growers. Alternative Medicine Maryland, which did not receive initial approval to become a cannabis grower, is alleging that the commission wrongly ignored racial diversity in the licensing process. The company is one of the finalists for a dispensary.
Two other companies, GTI Maryland and Maryland Cultivation and Processing, are suing because they were bumped out of the top 15 companies to become finalists as growers, as the commission sought to include geographic diversity among the finalists. GTI is among the finalists for a dispensary.
Companies have shown strong interest in Maryland, because the market is expected to be lucrative. Cannabis will be available for any condition that is severe in which other medical treatments have been ineffective. Nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists and nurse midwives will be able to recommend its use, as well as doctors.
All applicants will still need to undergo criminal background investigations, financial due diligence and compliance inspections by the commission before getting licensed. The process could take several months.