Maryland State Bank: The Responsible Solution for Fostering the Growth of Maryland’s Medical Cannabis

By: David Bronfein*

     In 2013, Maryland passed its initial medical cannabis law.[1]  Although seemingly a success in the medical cannabis reform movement, the law only allowed for “academic medical centers” to participate in the program.[2]  In essence, an academic medical center could dispense medical cannabis to patients who met the criteria for participation in their research program.[3]  The success of this type of program structure was a concern for medical cannabis advocates,[4] and the concerns were validated when no academic medical centers decided to participate.[5]  As a result of this lackluster program, the General Assembly responded by passing a bill[6] during the 2014 Regular Session to create a more inviting program, thereby making Maryland the 21st state to enact a comprehensive medical cannabis law.[7]  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”).[8]  The General Assembly further augmented Maryland’s medical cannabis law with the passage of H.B. 490.[9]   The purpose of this legislation, among other things, was to make access to the program easier for patients and physicians.[10]

     Maryland’s medical cannabis law tasks the Commission with the generation and promulgation of regulations that govern the medical cannabis program.[11]   When H.B. 881 was enacted, the law called for adoption of regulations by the Commission “on or before September 15, 2014,”[12] but, due to many administrative delays, the program’s regulations were not promulgated until September 14, 2015.[13]  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.[14]  These applications were released on September 28, 2015, and called for all interested parties to submit their applications no later than November 6, 2015.[15]  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.[16]  More specifically, there were 146 applications for fifteen growers licenses,[17] 124 applications for fifteen processors licenses,[18] and 811 applications for 94 dispensary licenses.[19]