Medical marijuana sales in Maryland tops $96M as market booms in first year of operation

Maryland’s medical marijuana industry ended its first year of operation this week with $96.3 million in sales driven by nearly 52,000 patients who have purchased about 730,000 individual products such as vape pens.

Between 250 and 350 patients have been applying each day with the state to be able to purchase cannabis products sold from the dozens of licensed stores across Maryland, many of whose owners cannot resist a pun, such as Starbuds in Baltimore, Hi Tide in Ocean City and Grow West in Cumberland.

“This is significant business for the first 12 months, considering it’s a ramp-up period and there is a lot of work that needs to be done,” said Joy Strand, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, at the panel’s meeting on Thursday in Annapolis. “That is great progress.”

Strand’s first day on Dec. 1, 2017, coincided with the launch of an industry that had endured many false starts since the Maryland General Assembly approved medical marijuana five years ago — a step that has positioned the state among 32 others and Washington that have approved marijuana programs.

The Maryland market started with eight retail stores and now counts 71 dispensaries with 31 more pending approval to sell to a growing patient population.

Over the past 12 months the number of patients has grown nearly three-fold from the 18,000 people who first signed up to seek relief from severe pain, seizures, post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments.

There are currently 51,704 patients who are certified by their medical providers to purchase medical cannabis to treat their conditions. Another 22,809 are awaiting certification.

The state has approved 15 marijuana growers and 16 “processors,” firms that turn harvested marijuana into the products sold in dispensaries. Those products must be tested and approved by one of the state’s five independent testing labs.

The industry has produced 10,800 pounds of cannabis flower, or bud, that has been turned into the 729,309 products sold to customers across the state.

Here are a few other telling statistics from the commission about the first year of business:

  • 4,659 people are registered as caregivers — individuals who care for the minors or disabled people using the marijuana products.
  • 1,187 medical professionals are authorized to prescribe cannabis, with 730 physicians making up the majority of prescribers, ahead of nurse practitioners, dentists and podiatrists.
  • 29,425 patients are diagnosed to use cannabis for “severe pain.” Other conditions include anorexia, glaucoma and wasting.
  • 181 minors and 163 hospice patients are certified to obtain cannabis.
  • 1.99 million transactions have been recorded by dispensaries.

The commission has endured some criticism along the way.

It has faced complaints for a lack of diversity among companies awarded licenses, firms selling or partnering with large, national corporations despite state rules against such deals and an advertising ban approved Thursday.

ddonovan@baltsun.com

twitter.com/dougdonovan

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
30°