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Maryland's medical marijuana rules poised for vote

Maryland's medical marijuana commission may vote today on rules to set up and run the state's nascent program.

The panel has at least twice delayed approving their rules, which were due nearly two months ago.

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Advocates for the long-delayed medical marijuana program complained the panel's proposed fees were too high and that some patients needed to be able to take marijuana's active ingredient in liquid form.

Last month, the commission delayed a vote in order to cast regulations on marijuana extracts and to consider whether to reduce the fees charged to growers and dispensaries. The proposed two-year license fees - $125,000 for for growers and $40,000 for dispensaries - were higher than any other state besides Illinois.

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Commission members said the fees have to be high enough to make the program self-sufficient, which is a condition the Maryland General Assembly put on the program. Some advocates contend that those fees were too high and would scare off small entrepreneurs from jumping into the state's fledgling medical pot industry.

Today's vote would send the regulations to Maryland Health Secretary Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein and the state's attorney general for review before they are formally proposed. Another public review of the regulations must take place before they are formally adopted, a process expected to take at least a few more months.

Maryland struggled for years with how to create a medical marijuana program. A law passed in 2013 relied on academic centers to distribute the drug, but none volunteered. This year, state lawmakers recrafted the program to allow certified physicians to recommend marijuana to qualified patients.

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