Maryland puts a hold on medical marijuana from Lothian grower

Phil Davis
Contact Reporterpdavis@capgaznews.com

State officials have told marijuana dispensaries and processors not to accept products from a Lothian growing facility.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has placed an “administrative hold” on products from ForwardGro.

Joy Strand, the commission’s executive director, said in a statement Wednesday the hold on ForwardGro’s products was “a precautionary measure” pursuant to a section of Maryland codes and regulations regarding inspections.

While Strand did not comment as to the nature of the investigation, she cited part of Maryland code that states a possible suspension of product distribution if “an inspector has reasonable suspicion of an operational failure or of conditions that create a likelihood of diversion, contamination, or a risk to the public health.”

ForwardGro spokeswoman Vicki Bendure said Wednesday that plants had passed inspection numerous times. She said the company has not been informed of what the investigation is about and why its products are on administrative hold.

“We are really in the dark,” Bendure said. “We have no idea what’s going on.”

The commission announced in July it was investigating allegations the facility illegally used pesticides in growing cannabis plants later harvested for sale to patients. ForwardGro has denied the claims made by three former employees to the General Assembly.

ForwardGro is co-owned by Gary Mangum, a prominent supporter of Gov. Larry Hogan who served on Hogan’s inaugural committee and transition team.

The General Assembly adopted an amendment to a medical marijuana bill that allowed for the use of some pesticides. It directed the Department of Agriculture to create emergency regulations regarding allowed pest control by June 1.

Those rules went into effect in July, but it was not immediately clear what would be allowed by the commission under the new regulations.

The medical marijuana industry has had a tumultuous start in Anne Arundel County, as owners have been fighting litigation from their past businesses and county officials have been accused of trying to squeeze dispensaries into narrow corridors.

The wife of a physical medicine rehabilitation specialist who is being sued by the county for allegedly overprescribing opioid painkillers is a part-owner of Kind Therapeutics USA LLC, which has applied to open a dispensary off Generals Highway. The County Council passed a bill earlier this month that loosened restrictions on medical marijuana projects and included special exemptions for sites within industrial districts, like what Kind Therapeutics has proposed.

That bill followed complaints that county officials were effectively pushing out the medical marijuana industry. Some, including an owner of a Linthicum dispensary, said the county made such strict regulations around where the businesses could be developed that it became nearly impossible to find suitable sites away from schools and residences north of U.S. Route 50.

A part-owner of a proposed dispensary on West Street in Annapolis was sued by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission after Hispanic employees at his previous car wash business claimed he and other employees treated them like personal servants, sometimes assigning male employees to do chores around their personal homes.

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