By: David Bronfein*
In 2013, Maryland passed its initial medical cannabis law. Although seemingly a success in the medical cannabis reform movement, the law only allowed for “academic medical centers” to participate in the program. In essence, an academic medical center could dispense medical cannabis to patients who met the criteria for participation in their research program. The success of this type of program structure was a concern for medical cannabis advocates, and the concerns were validated when no academic medical centers decided to participate. As a result of this lackluster program, the General Assembly responded by passing a bill during the 2014 Regular Session to create a more inviting program, thereby making Maryland the 21st state to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law. Under H.B. 881, the program was broadened to allow patients, physicians, growers, processors, and dispensaries to operate within a framework that would be set up by the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission (the “Commission”). The General Assembly further augmented Maryland’s medical cannabis law with the passage of H.B. 490. The purpose of this legislation, among other things, was to make access to the program easier for patients and physicians.
Maryland’s medical cannabis law tasks the Commission with the generation and promulgation of regulations that govern the medical cannabis program. When H.B. 881 was enacted, the law called for adoption of regulations by the Commission “on or before September 15, 2014,” but, due to many administrative delays, the program’s regulations were not promulgated until September 14, 2015. After the governing regulations were completed, the Commission focused its energy on the creation of an application for which growers, processors, and dispensaries would apply for licensure into the program. These applications were released on September 28, 2015, and called for all interested parties to submit their applications no later than November 6, 2015. The fact that the Commission received 1,081 applications was a testament to the evolution of Maryland’s medical cannabis law and the inviting regulations promulgated by the Commission. More specifically, there were 146 applications for fifteen growers licenses, 124 applications for fifteen processors licenses, and 811 applications for 94 dispensary licenses.