Maryland’s medical cannabis industry hit $600M in revenue. As legalization looms, how much bigger will it get?

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After years of explosive growth, Maryland’s medical cannabis industry appears to be cooling off.

According to data from state regulators, the number of medical cannabis patients in Maryland has been growing at its slowest rate since the program kicked off sales in 2017.

Remedy Dispensary is a regulated medical cannabis shop off Security Boulevard.

Will Tilburg, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, or MMCC, acknowledged the slowdown in patient growth, but said it’s part of the industry’s natural course.

“When a market matures, there is less rapid growth,” Tilburg said.


The MMCC publishes data every two weeks on the number of patients in its program. In the first three months of 2022, the state’s medical cannabis program grew by fewer than 4,000 total patients.

Patients are automatically dropped from medical cannabis registration after three years if they don’t register again. At one point this year, the state reported a drop in the overall number of patients, meaning more registrations expired than new patients signed up. However, there was an upturn the next reporting period.

As of April 1, the total number of patients was just over 152,000.

According to Tilburg, the number of new patients isn’t slowing down. Instead, established patients are not renewing their registration, Tilburg said, and this churn is a sign of a healthy, responsible cannabis market. That’s because while a plurality of patients cite chronic pain for their registration, Tilburg said many others use cannabis temporarily, such as during chemotherapy or following a knee surgery.

“Most patients are not using it indefinitely,” he said.

Most states with medical cannabis programs eventually have between 2% and 3% of their population registered as patients, according to Jacquie Cohen Roth, owner of CannabizMD and Tea Pad, which focus on education and networking in the cannabis industry. In Maryland, that would be between 120,000 and 180,000 patients, which is squarely where the state’s patient count sits now.

Delaware, which established its medical program a few years earlier than Maryland, reported having 20,574 patient applications in fiscal year 2021, which is about 2.1% of its population, and has seen steady growth year after year. However, Delaware requires patients to re-register each year. Meanwhile, Virginia’s medical cannabis program is in its infancy, with just four dispensaries as of February, according to the Virginia Mercury.

Darren Fruman is the general manager of Remedy Dispensary.

Cohen Roth thinks Maryland’s industry has significant room to grow. She pointed at what she calls the state’s “gray market,” where patients are buying legal cannabis on behalf of friends and family. While the state may have 152,000 registered patients, Cohen Roth said the actual number of people using cannabis bought from a medical dispensary is much higher.


She believes some people are still wary of registering as a patient because of the stigma around cannabis use and the cost of getting registered is too high. Patients must pay a $50 fee to the state. A required visit to a health care provider can cost up to $250, Cohen Roth said. Because cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, Medicare, Medicaid and other insurance programs do not cover the cost of medical cannabis.

If Maryland wants to keep growing its medical cannabis program, Cohen Roth said it needs to educate the public about its health benefits, work to eliminate the stigma and reduce the barrier of entry for patients.

In 2021, state regulators reported that industry revenue hit about $600 million. Jake Van Wingerden, head of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association, said that number is expected to more than triple to $2 billion whenever Maryland establishes an adult-use industry.

Meanwhile, it’s not just the patient side of the industry that appears to be maturing.

From left, Kyle Smith, Liss Jackson and Kyle Fox (right) manage the customer dispensary counter at  Remedy Dispensary, a regulated medical cannabis shop off Security Boulevard.

When Maryland legalized medical cannabis, licensees had to scramble to build an industry. With cannabis illegal at the federal level, there is virtually no interstate commerce in the legal cannabis market, which is regulated state by state. Every vape cartridge, pre-roll and gummy sold at a Maryland dispensary has to be grown and processed in Maryland.

Early on, that meant shortages of cannabis and a limited range of products. Not anymore.


Van Wingerden, who also runs one of the state’s biggest cultivators, SunMed Growers in Cecil County, said there is new emphasis on high quality and lower prices.

“Most of the growers and processors — the wholesale side of the marketplace — their expansions are built out,” Van Wingerden said. “Now, we’re all competing for the same shelf space.”

Not too long ago, supply was so scarce that dispensaries were buying any cannabis they could, regardless of quality.

“That dynamic has now flipped,” Van Wingerden said. “It’s a buyer’s market.”

Dispensaries, too, are stepping up their game to attract patients.

Remedy, a dispensary in Columbia, recently went through a rebranding, bought a second dispensary license and opened another location in Baltimore County. At nearly 11,000 square feet, Remedy claims it’s the biggest dispensary in the state.


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Gabriella Glick, Remedy’s sales manager, said they held a soft opening in mid-March. Sales have been doubling or more each week since then, Glick said.

While the number of patients in Maryland’s cannabis industry is not growing as rapidly as it once did, Glick said business at Remedy is good. There was a slowdown earlier this year, but Glick attributed that to a spike in gas prices. Remedy was seeing the same number of patients, she said, but patients weren’t buying as much product.

Remedy CEO Mitch Trellis said prices for higher-end products have generally remained stable, though some prices have dropped as cultivators have ramped up production.

Trellis said one of the biggest snags in the industry right now seems to be the wait time for getting a medical cannabis card. Trellis said he’s heard anecdotally that some folks have had to wait as long as eight weeks, which can discourage would-be patients.

Remedy has tried to make it as easy as possible for new patients, offering to reimburse them up to $200 worth of product for that initial doctor’s visit. The company is also trying to create a unique experience for customers at its new dispensary, incorporating a lounge, arcade games and installations from cannabis companies into a large open space. Darren Fruman, the store’s general manager, said other dispensaries rush their patients, but Remedy is trying to foster a community experience where patients might stay for a while.

Fruman believes there’s more room to grow in the cannabis industry — Remedy and other dispensaries just have to get the word out.


“More education,” he said. “That’s the key.”

For the record

An earlier version of this article incorrectly identified Jake Van Wingerden's affiliation. He is the former head of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association. The Sun regrets the error.