Six applicants have been pre-approved to possibly open medical marijuana dispensaries in the Harford County area, part of a group of 102 applicants pre-approved across the state late last week
Whether all six would actually open dispensaries within the county isn't determinable at this point in the approval process, however, because applicants were selected by state senatorial district, and two of Harford's three districts also encompass parts of neighboring counties.
There are two licensees per district under the state law passed in 2014 that provides for distribution and use of cannabis for medical reasons.
All 102 applicants are listed by state senate district on the website of the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, http://mmcc.maryland.gov, but the website does not say where they will physically located.
The prospective dispensary operators still must go through "Stage Two," which involves criminal background checks, reviews of company financing, compliance with state regulations, approvals by local planning and zoning entities and construction of their business facilities before they are able to distribute medical cannabis, according to the commission's website.
Medical marijuana is intended to help patients with illnesses such as cancer and to relieve chronic pain.
Republican state Sen. J.B. Jennings, of Joppa, represents District 7, which straddles the Baltimore-Harford County line. In addition to Joppa, Fallston, Monkton and Norrisville in Harford, District 7 includes parts of Baltimore County as far east as Middle River and north to Kingsville, Fork and Baldwin.
"The commission is doing its homework to make sure they are well established," Jennings, who noted he does not support recreational use of marijuana, said Monday of dispensary applicants.
The commission announced in August pre-approvals for 15 applicants to be growers of medical marijuana and 15 more to be processors. None of those 30 applicants are based in Harford County, according to lists posted on the commission's website.
"The growers went through a rigorous vetting process to make sure they were compliant and their facilities were up to par, the same thing with the dispensaries," Jennings said.
Republican Sen. Robert Cassilly, of Bel Air, was elected to his first term as the senator from District 34 in 2014, after the law was passed; however, his senate predecessor, current County Executive Barry Glassman, voted for the law.
Cassilly's district is the only one contained entirely within Harford County and includes parts of Bel Air, Bel Air South, Aberdeen, Havre de Grace and communities along the Route 40 corridor such as Abingdon and Edgewood.
He noted he knows a number of people battling cancer, and his son has epilepsy.
"Maybe this would be beneficial for him – I don't know," Norman said of his son's situation.
Legislators for each district did not have a role in the pre-approval process. The commission used rankings developed by the Regional Economic Studies Institute at Towson University as a guide in making its selections out of about 882 applicants, according to The Baltimore Sun.
Maryland's implementation process has been held up by lawsuits from several applicants who were denied pre-approvals, and there have been critics, including African American state legislators, who have been concerned about a lack of racial diversity among the applicants who have been approved, The Sun reported.
Applicants who have been pre-approved must get through the final approval process, too. One medical marijuana advocate, Darrell Carrington, of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, told The Sun he does not expect patients would be able to get their medical marijuana until the end of 2017, or maybe until early 2018.
Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.