Medical marijuana patients in Maryland will soon be able to finally actually access medical marijuana as the state approved medical cannabis rules Thursday.
But it has taken the state forever – and left patients languishing – to get this far. And patients will still have to wait until 2016 to access any buds.
The state originally passed a very restrictive medical cannabis bill in 2013 that allowed for academic institutions with medical schools to create pilot programs for medical cannabis. Basically, colleges were going to be the distributors and regulators of medical pot on a very limited basis. The plan failed, mostly because there wasn’t a college that wanted to be a part of it.
So in April, the state passed a bill that would expand the program to a model that makes more sense: growers sell to dispensaries, which sell to patients who must have a recommendation from a state-approved doctor.
The rules for the new program were supposed to be ready in September, but the state Medical Marijuana Commission stalled while they debated whether their licensing and application fees for growers and dispensary were too high. In the end they settle on some stratospheric costs. Want to own a dispensary? That’s a $80,000 license every two years.. Want to grow for commercial medical sales? Get in line and start saving. The state plans to license 15 marijuana growers at $250,000 each for a two-year license.
The state says the money will go to regulating the new industry. But the fees will no doubt give growers and dispensary owners plenty of justification to keep prices high. But don’t expect any medical cannabis any time soon, Marylanders. Officials say they won’t begin taking applications until mid-2015.
“We want to get this program up and running and we want to get marijuana in the hands of patients,” said Paul Davis, Medical Marijuana Commission. “We want our growers happy, we want our dispensers happy and we want to make this a success for the state of Maryland-not a failed program,”