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Maryland picks more companies to grow, process medical cannabis

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded initial approvals for 11 more companies to grow or process the drug.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded initial approvals for 11 more companies to grow or process the drug. (Brennan Linsley / AP)

After more than a year of delays due to logistical errors and allegations of impropriety, the state has picked 11 companies to expand and diversify Maryland’s medical cannabis industry.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission on Thursday selected three companies to grow medical cannabis and eight companies to process the plant into products to be sold at retail dispensaries. The companies were awarded “pre-approval” for licenses.

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The growers will be Viola Maryland, Herbiculture Cultivation and MAS Alliance. The companies selected for processing are Herbiculture Manufacturing, Organic Remedies MD, Bouquet Labs, Element MD, AHI Group, Ceres Naturals, Marileaves Extractions and Greener Good.

All companies have at least half of their ownership qualified as “disadvantaged,” female or minority, according to the commission.

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These additional licenses have been in the works since 2018, when state lawmakers passed a law requiring the state to expand the medical cannabis program to bring more racial diversity to the fledgling industry. A review ordered by the state found that minorities are at a disadvantage in the industry.

The first 15 licenses issued to growers to start the industry included none that went to minority-owned firms.

The 2018 law ordered more licenses, but the application process that followed in 2019 was beset by technical errors. The cannabis commission extended the deadline and asked applicants to reapply with paper applications.

Then questions were raised whether the review and ranking process was free from conflicts of interest, and whether applicants were truthful in their applications. Multiple lawsuits challenging the process were filed, and one of the chief proponents of the industry, former Del. Cheryl Glenn, went to prison on federal corruption charges for taking bribes.

A consultant’s report issued last month found no problems serious enough to derail the awarding of licenses.

In its announcement Thursday, however, the cannabis commission noted that several applicants were thrown out, including one that had “an impermissible association with Morgan State University,” which analyzed the applications. The commission did not immediately offer further details.

The commission did not award the full complement of licenses that it was authorized to. The commission could still award one more grower license and two more processor licenses.

The medical cannabis industry continues to grow in Maryland, with $40.5 million worth of sales at dispensaries in August. Nearly 2,000 medical providers are approved to certify patients for the drug, and the state has 114,367 certified patients.

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