A dispensary in Denver, photo via O’Dea/Wikimedia Commons

Medical weed is still not available in Maryland, but the state is moving one step closer to making it happen next week by kicking off the patient registration process.

A message posted on the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s website says medical cannabis products should be available to registered patients by this summer. In the meantime, as dispensaries, growers and processors set up shop, the commission needs to establish a patient registry.

That begins Monday, April 10, for those with last names starting with letters A through L, according to the online notice. Patients with last names starting with letters M through Z can register beginning Monday, April 17. Both groups will have a week to register as part of this early enrollment period before the entire process opens up for good on April 24. The entire application process will be online at this link.

The notice says the early registration period is designed to “allow patients time to establish a bonafide doctor-patient relationship months before any medicine is available.”

The commission will help register patients starting with events in May, where staff will be on-site to assist. The first is scheduled for May 1 at Eastern Shore Hospital Center, located at 5262 Woods Road in Cambridge, the second on May 2 at Kaplan University at 8618 Crestwood Drive in Hagerstown, the third on May 3 at the Charles County Government Building at 200 Baltimore Street in La Plata and the fourth on May 4 at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene building in Baltimore at 4201 Patterson Avenue, Rooms 105 and 106.

Other dates for Montgomery and Prince George’s counties are forthcoming, the commission said.

Barring a sudden decision in Annapolis to completely scrap the process and start anew within the next week, medical pot should be available within months.

The commission announced its picks for dispensaries in each legislative district in December. Baltimore City is set to get 12 of the 102 pre-approved dispensaries.

Maryland’s medical cannabis rollout has been notoriously slow. Obstacles have included pushback from lawmakers about the makeup of the commission and lawsuits filed by companies who wanted licenses, but didn’t receive pre-approval due to what they alleged was misplaced priority by the commission on geographic diversity or a lack of attention to racial diversity.

Months after those allegations surfaced, the commission published data online indicating 35 percent of pre-licensed firms so far are minority-owned and 60 percent of their employees are racial or ethnic minorities.

While a coalition of black lawmakers proposed altering the current licensing system to better promote diversity, their proposal didn’t get very far Annapolis. Senate President Mike Miller has introduced his own bill that would extend preliminary licenses to two businesses that sued and push the commission to further emphasize racial and gender diversity when licensing businesses.

While there may be more tweaking on the regulatory end, patients can start applying for their medical cards within weeks. The commission’s website says eligible reasons to get a medical card will include “any condition that is severe, for which other medical treatments have been ineffective, and if the symptoms ‘reasonably can be expected to be relieved’” through medical cannabis. Listed examples include “chronic or debilitating disease[s]” or conditions causing severe loss of appetite, severe or chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, muscle spasms, glaucoma or PTSD.

Cards will cost $50. Applicants will need to fill out a set of forms, which will be available online soon.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...