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Maryland's medical marijuana industry was slow to get started but it on pace for $100 million in sales in 2018.
Maryland's medical marijuana industry was slow to get started but it on pace for $100 million in sales in 2018. (/ Baltimore Sun)

Sales of medical marijuana in Maryland this year are blowing by projections from one of the cannabis industry’s leading market research firms.

New Frontier Data forecast last year — before Maryland’s market kicked off last December — that the state’s 2018 sales would be $46 million.

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For the first nine months of 2018, however, sales have been $67 million, according to the latest data from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Beau Whitney, senior economist for New Frontier Data, said the company is updating its forecasts.

“The uptick was higher than we initially expected but is gaining traction,” Whitney said.

His unofficial expectation is that sales will hit $100 million “sometime in December.”

No wonder then, as The Sun recently reported, that several large, national companies are seeking to consolidate licenses to grow, process and sell in Maryland and in states across the nation.

Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, which has its own licenses in Maryland, has offered to buy a competitor’s licenses here for $30 million. The price tag provided one of the first peeks into how companies are valuing the licenses in Maryland.

A Massachusetts company that trades on the Canadian stock exchange has offered $30 million to a Frederick firm to expand its presence beyond its current Baltimore County store in a deal that challenges a regulation prohibiting such consolidation.

But state lawmakers are worried that big, well-financed companies could monopolize Maryland’s market.

Curaleaf certainly has the resources and the backing of investors. Its market value has hovered at around $3 billion since it began trading publicly last month on the Canadian Securities Exchange.

In regulatory filing in Canada and the United States before going public, Curaleaf reported raising $400 million, including selling $121 million worth of shares to 86 people in 16 U.S. states, including Maryland. Identities are not disclosed in such records but would include savvy, wealthy investors, large banks and other institutions.

Curaleaf’s majority owner, Boris Jordan, told Bloomberg Businessweek last year that his Moscow-based private equity firm, Sputnik Group, had spent $100 million to prepare the company for the expansion that now has it operating in 12 states.

Jordan knows how to spot an opportunity.

“In the early 1990s, Mr. Jordan was considered a key player in the development of the Russian stock market and was a leader in the privatization of Russian state assets” when the Soviet Union collapsed, according to the company’s website.

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