Pubdate: Mon, 14 Aug 2017
Source: Baltimore Sun (MD)
Copyright: 2017 The Baltimore Sun Company
Author: Erin Cox


Maryland's medical marijuana regulators approved final licenses for
eight growing companies on Monday, allowing them to start cultivating
the drug.

Several companies said they are ready to begin growing immediately,
while others say they will take weeks to get started.

"Now, we have a real industry," said Cary Millstein, CEO of newly
licensed grower Freestate Wellness in Howard County.

Until Monday, just one of the 15 selected firms had received final
permission to start cultivating medical marijuana, which was first
legalized in the state in 2013. Even at full capacity, one firm could
not produce nearly enough to support 102 planned dispensaries.

Marijuana industry research group New Frontier estimates Maryland's
market will be worth $221 million annually by 2021.

Millstein whooped as the commission approved his license, the first of
several outbursts punctuating an otherwise staid government meeting in
Harford County. Members of Temescal Wellness of Maryland's team
fist-bumped -- one man danced in his seat and started rapidly texting
champagne bottle emojis -- as the company's license to start growing
in Baltimore was approved.

Some firms raced to meet Monday's deadline to become operational.

Curio Wellness of Baltimore County, which also received its license
Monday, has been waiting for more than two months for final approval
to bring plants into its nine high-tech, climate-controlled growing
chambers in a 56,000-square-foot Timonium warehouse.

"As with any start up industry, you're bound to have bumps in the
road," Curio CEO Michael Bronfein said in a recent interview.

The last-minute approvals follow the rocky start to an industry that
has been beset by lawsuits, controversy and delays.

State courts are reviewing two cases that allege Maryland regulators
improperly picked which companies could grow the drug, and state
lawmakers have weighed issuing more licenses to make sure some go to
firms owned by African-Americans, who don't own any of the 15 firms
selected for preliminary growing licenses.

Del. Cheryl Glenn, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the General
Assembly's Legislative Black Caucus, has called for the commission to
stop issuing licenses.

Maryland's beleaguered medical marijuana industry faces a critical
deadline Monday, when companies the state has selected to grow the
plant are required to be operational. Those that are not ready risk
losing their lucrative licenses.

Meanwhile, patients have been waiting. As of Monday, 12,000 people had
signed up to become eligible for medical marijuana and 400 medical
providers had signed up to recommend it to them.

Brian Lopez, the newly appointed chairman of the Maryland Medical
Cannabis Commission, said there was still a lot work to be done to
bring online the remaining growers and all of the marijuana processors
and dispensaries hoping to open across the state. Only one dispensary,
in Frederick, is licensed. More than 100 others are pending.

Monday was the deadline for growing companies to be operational, or
risk losing their licenses. Nine companies are now permitted to grow
medical marijuana. Another two underwent final inspections on Monday.
The future of the remaining four is not clear.

There will not be a special legislative session to address charges of
racial inequity in Maryland's burgeoning medical marijuana industry.

The commission's executive director Patrick Jameson said the panel
will weigh whether to grant extensions to those companies on Aug. 28.

Jameson said he thought having trouble with local zoning laws was a
valid reason to seek an extension, but failing to raise capital or
otherwise execute a business plan was not.

The commission also approved the state's first marijuana processors
Monday, granting final licenses to four firms, three of which will
also grow the drug.

The eight growers approved Monday join Anne Arundel County-based
ForwardGro -- the first company to receive a final license -- and they
represent a wide array of approaches to capitalize on the market.

Some plan to exclusively be wholesalers. Others have launched
operations to grow and then process the drug. Others plan to open
dispensaries that will sell specially branded products grown and
processed in house.

In addition to Freestate Wellness and Temescal, the commission granted
final growing licenses to Harvest of Maryland in Washington County, as
well as to Green Leaf Medical and HMS Health, which are both in
Fredrick County. Grower and processor licenses went to Curio Wellness
in Timonium, Holistic in Prince George's County and Carroll County's
Grassroots of Maryland, a company that has done business as Maryland
Compassionate Care and Wellness. Blair Wellness of Worcester County
also won a final license to process medical marijuana.

Jameson, the commission's executive director, said Grow West LLC and
SunMed Growers received a final inspection from the state on Monday.
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