Medical marijuana regulators approved 12 new dispensaries Thursday to open in the state, more than doubling the number of businesses allowed to sell the drug.
But they cautioned the supply remains low, and it may be difficult to buy marijuana until at least March.
“Product is limited,” said Bryan Lopez, chairman of the Medical Cannabis Commission. “We expect that it will continue to be limited.”
More than 18,000 people have registered to become medical marijuana patients so far, officials said, and another 5,000 registration requests are pending. But most of the state’s 14 growers only started cultivating late this summer.
Patients are paying $480 to $680 an ounce for medical marijuana, said Darrell Carrington with Greenwill Consulting Group, a cannabis industry advisory group.
“The prices are going to remain relatively high because people are trying to quickly recoup their investments,” he said.
ForwardGro, the first grower to start cultivating, sent its first batches to processors to get turned into products, said CFO Gail Rand. A new batch of flowers should be available for processors and dispensaries within days or weeks, Rand said Thursday.
Bryan Hill’s Charm City Medicus dispensary in Dundalk was among the dozen approved to operate Thursday, but he said he doesn’t expect to have cannabis available until January.
He doesn’t want to open his doors and run out, the way several other dispensaries did earlier this month.
Instead, pharmacists at Charm City Medicus will start meeting with pre-registered patients Friday to expedite business when the drug does arrive.
“We want to open up and have a steady supply,” Hill said.
Several dispensaries that did open earlier this month either had patients waiting for hours or had to temporarily close due to limited inventory and technical problems.
Twenty-two dispensaries across the state are now allowed to open their doors, and more than 60 are waiting for final approval.
Last year, the state picked 102 businesses to launch in Maryland’s dispensary market. Each had until early December to get up and running or lose their preliminary licenses. Lopez said the medical cannabis commission would consider whether to revoke licenses next year.
Prospective patients also may have trouble finding a medical provider to recommend the drug.
So far, 712 professionals have registered with the state as recommending medical providers, a number that represents fewer than 5 percent of the state’s 16,000 doctors.
Medical marijuana regulators have declined to publish a list of medical providers. Dispensary owners like Hill say that referring patients to providers will be part of the service he provides.
Three Baltimore-area dispensaries were among the 12 approved Thursday. They will join two others previously approved in Columbia and Ellicott City.
There will be new companies formed to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana and many other firms created or expanded to support or service the new industry in Maryland. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun video)