In the final days of the Maryland legislative session, top democrats agreed to the expansion of medical marijuana growers in the state. Two top lawmakers in particular, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Michael Busch, showed their support by writing a letter in July requesting passage of “emergency legislation” in the legislation session beginning January.
Even with these steps forward, there are still many issues to discuss. For example, lawmakers are still wrestling over which businesses should be given entry into the lucrative marijuana market. Fifteen companies were preapproved last year by regulators. If they pass all final inspections and background checks, they’ll be cleared to open cultivation sites. And what about marijuana credit card processing? With strict federal regulations, merchants are unable to secure processing and funding from traditional financial institutions. Most turn to an alternative provider like Marijuana Merchant Account (MMA).
There have been other obstacles in the process of approving five additional growing licenses. In the final days of the legislative session, House and Senate negotiators battled over a compromise concerning how many new licenses should be issued, along with whether the number of growers should be reduced if a company fails inspection.
If the new bill was passed, it would also favor minority-owned companies. This addition is lawmakers attempt to address concerns raised when two companies sued the state after their application was rejected in favor of lower-ranked bids. According to The Washington Post, these lower-ranked bids were from “geographic regions of Maryland where no growers had been approved”.
Opposition arose to expand the Maryland marijuana market, surprisingly, from the fifteen businesses that have already been given cultivation licenses. These companies have banded together to oppose expanding the market. According to them, this expansion completely derails their business plans and pitches to investors; their plans were based on the expectation that they would have exclusive foothold of the marijuana industry in Maryland.
“Our members relied on commitments from the state when making their business decisions, and it is reasonable for them to expect that the state would honor those commitments,” says Jake Van Wingerden, President of Cecil County’s SunMed Growers. “Many of our members are just months away from delivering medical cannabis to patients, and we are opposed to any changes that would cause additional delays to this important program.”
Unfortunately, the session came to a close with no resolution. The bill was pushed off until 11:55p.m. – with a midnight deadline – before it came up before the full House. Republican lawmakers then delayed the vote by asking questions until the clock hit midnight. The 90-day session came to a close.
The result: none of the companies that received the green light to start growing Maryland’s first legal marijuana belong to African Americans, and the legal battle with two rejected applicants continues (they planned to drop the lawsuit if the bill was passed). The decision may be delayed, but the push for growth continues.