Maryland moved another step closer to making medical marijuana available to patients with the announcement Friday of preliminary licenses for 102 dispensaries across the state.
The companies picked to run the dispensaries now must undergo additional review by the state and pass inspections before opening. They'll also have to wait for Maryland's growers and processors to produce medical cannabis products, a process that has been complicated by litigation and political wrangling.
Maryland's medical marijuana program — already off to a slow start — might still be a year or more away.
"Patients probably won't be served until late 2017 or early 2018," said Darrell Carrington, executive director of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association. "That's the reality."
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission selected the preliminary dispensary licensees in late November, but didn't unveil their identities until Friday. The list was posted on the commission's website.
One company selected is connected to state Del. Dan K. Morhaim, who faces a legislative ethics inquiry for advocating for the industry while also working for a company seeking a lucrative license.
Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, agreed to be clinical director for Doctor's Orders, which secured preliminary licenses to grow and process cannabis this year. The company won a license Friday to operate a dispensary in Southeast Baltimore.
Morhaim, a physician, has said he should have disclosed his relationship with Doctor's Orders more publicly. He declined to comment Friday.
Ten of the dispensary licenses announced Friday went to companies that already had preliminary licenses to grow the drug.
The 15 companies that received preliminary licenses to grow cannabis were also eligible to apply for dispensary licenses. All 10 that sought a preliminary dispensary license received one.
The other 92 companies are scattered across the state. Up to two stand-alone dispensaries were allowed in each of Maryland's 47 legislative districts.
In most districts, two companies were awarded licenses. Two districts — District 2 in Washington County and District 41 in Northwest Baltimore — had only one company win a preliminary license.
Some districts had more than two companies receive preliminary dispensary licenses. Companies that hold a preliminary grower license and also sought a dispensary license did not count toward the two-per-district total.
Preliminary dispensary licensees were awarded to four companies in District 17 in Montgomery, which includes Gaithersburg and Rockville. Seven other districts saw three companies receive licenses.
The commission listed the winning dispensary licensees only by name and legislative district. The companies' addresses won't be made public until they receive any necessary local approvals and the proposed sites are inspected and approved by state regulators.
Company ownership information was not immediately available.
Many of the companies used wordplay in their names. In Baltimore County, one is named Cannavations MD and another is called Chesacanna. MaryLeaf and PharmaCann plan to do business in Montgomery County.
The commission picked winners of preliminary licenses based on applications that shielded the identities of the applicants.
Towson University's Regional Economic Studies Institute was directed to rank each applicant without regard to its identity. Towson's rankings guided the commission's vote.
Dr. Paul W. Davies, the commission chairman, said the panel received more than 800 applications to open dispensaries.
The number was inflated because some companies applied to open a dispensary in every single legislative district. By law, an applicant can hold only one dispensary license.
Davies said announcing the dispensary licenses will help keep momentum going for the fledgling industry.
But the effort still faces obstacles.
Three companies that were passed over for preliminary growing licenses have sued the commission. With those lawsuits pending, none of the prospective growers and processors granted preliminary licenses have secured final licenses.
Black lawmakers in the General Assembly have criticized the commission for not taking racial diversity into account when awarding the licensees. Some lawmakers have discussed introducing legislation on cannabis licenses during the 2017 General Assembly session, which opens Jan. 11.
Maryland's medical marijuana program, first authorized in 2014, has been one of the slowest in the nation to launch.
Davies said the state can now focus on setting up the software programs and staffing that will be needed to regulate the cannabis industry, in spite of unresolved legal and legislative challenges.
He said the commission also will work to educate doctors and patients about the pros and cons of medical cannabis.
The commission plans to hire a consultant to review what steps — if any — it could take to improve diversity in the state's nascent medical marijuana industry.
"It's very much at the forefront of our efforts to make sure we have ethnic and racial diversity throughout the industry," Davies said.
Carrington, of the industry association, said the dispensary license announcements were important. Now, he said, the winners can nail down their locations, refine their operating procedures and hire and train employees. That will allow the dispensaries to be ready to sell once growers and processors begin producing cannabis products.
Carrington said anticipation was high waiting for the state's announcement.
He refreshed his browser all afternoon, and as soon as the list was posted, his phone began ringing with calls from companies that won licenses.
"It's great we have these things moving forward," he said.
Preliminary dispensary license winners
•Allegany Medical Marijuana Dispensary, District 1
•The Apothecary LLC, District 1
•Maryland Health & Wellness Inc., District 2
•Bloomworks Wellness LLC, District 3
•Wellness Institute of Maryland, District 3
•Euphoria Wellness Maryland LLC, District 4
•K&R Holdings Inc., District 4
•DLD Enterprises Inc, District 5
•MyBond LLC, District 5
•Charm City Medicus LLC, District 6
•GreenMart of Maryland, District 6
•Chesapeake Health Sciences, District 7
•Meshow LLC, District 7
•Blue Ridge Wellness LLC, District 8
•LMS Wellness BLLC, District 8
•Farmalogics Health & Wellness LLC, District 9
•Trilogy Wellness of Maryland LLC, District 9
•MMRC, District 10
•PalliaTech Maryland LLC, District 10
•Cannavations MD LLC, District 11
•Chesacanna Inc., District 11
•Grower — Temescal Wellness of Maryland LLC, District 11
•AmediCanna Dispensary LLC, District 12
•Gina Dubbe, District 12
•Freestate Partners LLC, District 13
•Maryland Wellness Access LLC, District 13
•Grower — Freestate Wellness LLC, District 13
•B1 Earthgroup Inc., District 14
•Herbiculture Inc., District 14
•Cannabus LLC, District 15
•Mikran LLC, District 15
•Budding Rose LLC, District 16
•Chesapeake Alternatives LLC, District 16
•Grower — Harvest of Maryland, District 16
•Peake ReLeaf LLC, District 17
•Sugarloaf Enterprises, District 17
•Grower — HMS Health LLC, District 17
•Grower — Maryland Compassionate Care & Wellness LLC, District 17
•Columbia Care MD LLC, District 18
•PharmaCann LLC, District 18
•Grower — Holistic Industries LLC, District 18
•Maryland Alternative Relief Inc., District 19
•Premium Medicine of Maryland LLC, District 19
•GTI Maryland LLC, District 20
•Maryland Medical Cannabis Co. LLC (M2C2 HerbaFi), District 20
•Blu Pharms LLC, District 21
•Pure Hana Synergy LLC, District 21
•Grower — MaryMed LLC, District 21
•Bethesda Biomedical Inc., District 22
•Time for Healing LLC, District 22
•Our Community Wellness & Compassionate Care Center Inc., District 23
•The SENTEL Group LLC, District 23
•Jenny's of Maryland I LLC, District 24
•LinLar LLC, District 24
•Compassionate Herbal Alternatives Inc., District 25
•Metropolitan Medicinals LLC, District 25
•AltPharm LLC, District 26
•Jova Wellness Center, District 26
•MCNA Wellness LLC, District 27
•Three Creeks Dispensary, District 27
•Chesapeake Apothecary, District 28
•Maryland Earthworks Inc., District 28
•G&J Pharmaceuticals LLC, District 29
•Southern Maryland Relief LLC, District 29
•Advanced Alternative Therapies LLC, District 30
•Evolution Wellness LLC, District 30
•Grower — Kind Therapeutics USA LLC, District 30
•Maryland Natural Treatment Solutions LLC, District 31
•Maryland Physician Partners LLC, District 31
•Alternative Medicine Maryland LLC, District 32
•GPD LLC, District 32
•Durjaya LLC, District 33
•MGTM LLC, District 33
•Blue Mountain LLC, District 34
•Revolution Maryland Retail LLC, District 34
•Four Green Fields LLC, District 35
•Nature Care & Wellness LLC, District 35
•Hippocratic Growth LLC, District 36
•PharmKent LLC, District 36
•Peninsula Alternative Health LLC, District 37
•Tilstar LLC, District 37
•OC Botanicals LLC, District 38
•Positive Energy LLC, District 38
•MaryLeaf LLC, District 39
•MI Dispensary, District 39
•Chesapeake Integrated Health Institute LLC, District 40
•WadeWomen LLC-Dr. Dot's, District 40
•H&G Maryland LLC, District 41
•AGG Wellness LLC, District 42
•CWS LLC, District 42
•Grower — Curio Dispensary BC LLC, District 42
•Blair Wellness Center LLC, District 43
•Medical Products and Services Inc., District 43
•Charm City Relief Partners LLC, District 44
•Mission Maryland LLC, District 44
•CannaMD LLC, District 45
•Hallaway LLC, District 45
•GreenLabs Inc., District 46
•Pure Life Medical Inc., District 46
•Grower — Doctors Orders Maryland LLC, District 46
•CannaPharmacy Maryland LLC, District 47