Maryland Just Got Its First Licensed Grower of Medical Cannabis

Regulators have issued the first license to grow medical marijuana in Maryland, allowing a sprawling 2-acre warehouse in Anne Arundel County to immediately start cultivating the drug.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to grant final approval to a company called ForwardGro, more than four years after the state first legalized the medicinal use of cannabis.

According to The Baltimore Sun,

“A new industry in Maryland has been launched,” said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission. “They can start to grow immediately.”

ForwardGro officials said they expect their product to be available to patients early this fall.

“I’m overjoyed,” said Gail Rand, the company’s chief financial officer. She started lobbying the Maryland General Assembly more than five years ago to legalize marijuana in the hope that the drug would minimize her son Logan’s epileptic seizures. One of the company’s initial cannabis strains was selected to treat Logan’s symptoms.

ForwardGro was the first of 15 companies granted preliminary licenses in August 2016 to earn final approval to grow the drug. Since then, the industry has been subject to political controversy and two lawsuits over how the potentially lucrative licenses were awarded.

Wednesday’s approval of ForwardGro follows the emergency request of a medical marijuana company in Baltimore Circuit Court Monday to prevent the commission from issuing any final licenses.

Alternative Medicine Maryland, which is led by an African-American and did not receive a preliminary license, alleged in a lawsuit last year that the commission broke the law by failing to use a race-conscious application process.

Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams has not ruled on the emergency motion. An attorney for Alternative Medicine Maryland said a hearing on the motion is scheduled for May 25.

Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic legislative leaders are considering recalling lawmakers for a special legislative session at which they would discuss how to increase diversity among medical marijuana growers.

Maryland lawmakers first approved medical marijuana in 2013, but the program relied on academic institutions to distribute the drug, and none volunteered.

The legislature revamped the program the following year and empowered an existing medical marijuana advisory commission to become regulators and invent the industry from scratch.

Maryland has been among the slowest states in the country to get a medical marijuana program off the ground.

“We’re glad to see that Maryland regulators are finally getting medicine into the hands of patients, who have been waiting too long,” said Kate Bell, a lawyer with the Marijuana Policy Project advocacy group.

As of Wednesday, 6,500 patients had applied for the medical marijuana program, commission officials said, and 276 physicians had registered to recommend the drug.

“This is the most delightful part of being on this commission,” Commissioner Saundra Washington said moments before the panel approved the first medical marijuana growing license. “To see this day finally come to fruition is extremely emotional for those of us who have advocated for this.”

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