Maryland cannabis regulators delay launch of applications for 14 new grower and processor licenses

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Photo by Sam Sutch, via Wikimedia Commons

Citing hundreds of questions from the public, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on Thursday night said it’s postponing the launch of separate applications for four new weed-growing and 10 processing licenses.

Today was supposed to mark the start of the new 60-day application period, which, once complete, should help to beef up Maryland’s medical cannabis supply chain while also bringing aboard some new minority- and woman-owned companies to produce medical weed products for the state’s highly regulated industry.

But now, officials said they’re delaying it until they get a chance to respond to roughly 400 questions. The regulatory body published the 40-page applications for growers and processors—which, unlike the first versions from 2015, provide additional weight to racial and ethnic diversity among applicants—online in mid-January. What followed was a 30-day window for public comments and questions about the new documents.

That’s generated hundreds of queries about the new system for selecting the winners of the new round of lucrative cannabis-growing and processing licenses.

“Many people have shown a sincere interest in applying for the new licenses and in the interest of fairness and transparency, we want to answer each question, and give all potential applicants an opportunity to review the responses,” Will Tilburg, the agency’s director of policy and government affairs,  said in a statement.

Asked how long it might take, commission spokeswoman Jennifer White said in an email that “the window to apply for a license is likely to open in the next few weeks.” The commission hopes to answer all questions and post the responses online within the next week, she said.

The MMCC and the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland also held workshops in January and February to educate prospective applicants and others about the process, which was adjusted to better emphasize racial and gender equity in licensing under a law passed by the General Assembly last year.

The draft applications are still available for review here and here, and the agency has also published some early guidance about the process. The MMCC said in a separate notice that it’ll eventually publish the finalized applications, as well as answers to commonly asked questions, on its website when it kicks off the next application round.

Maryland already has 14 licensed growers and 16 processors, but the state infamously didn’t pick any black-owned firms to grow, and only one black-owned company to process cannabis when it made its picks in 2016.

Gov. Larry Hogan signed Glenn’s bill into law last year creating a new set of licenses geared toward boosting the diversity of the state’s medical pot producers, as well as settling lawsuits over the lack of minority representation.

This story has been updated.

Ethan McLeod
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