In its first meeting since March and following a Finance Committee meeting and Policy Committee meeting at the end of May, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission addressed its role in racial justice amid nationwide protests against police violence, approved a number of regulatory changes, and in a rare move for the aggressively pro-business commission, rescinded a dispensary license pre-approval.
MMCC Executive Director William Tilburg began with a statement addressing the current political moment where the police killing of George Floyd has led to massive protest across the country and a shocking—and necessary—reckoning with the country’s racist past.
“Medical cannabis is really at the nexus of a lot of the areas where we see the greatest racial disparities in the country. If we’re talking about health, business or economics, personal net worth, and criminal justice,” Tilburg said. “And so, it’s very important to us and the work we’re doing and seeing across the country. To that end, the General Assembly has tasked this body with creating a program that reflects the racial, ethnic, and gender diversity of this state and in that work is ongoing.”
He explained that this work continues through the MMCC establishing a program that considers racial and ethic diversity when it comes to licenses and increases the number of licenses which will ensure diversity. Tilburg also mentioned that diversity among ancillary businesses continues.
The meeting then moved through the approval of a number of the issues raised as a result of recent Finance Committee and Policy Committee meetings. The regulatory adjustments and amendments proposed have been approved, as expected as is (this included holding off on shifting the out-of-state patient regulations), with the exception of “undue influence” concerns which will be developed through a workgroup.
Most notably, the MMCC has rejected a dispensary. The Final Review Subcommittee revoked the pre-approval of Prince George’s County-based cannabis company LinLar LLC because it has not become licensed or operational and has not requested extensions. LinLar has been at the risk of losing its license since 2019. One of the cannabis companies approved in 2016, it has not in the past four years opened. Initially, it was supposed to open by September 2016, though by that point only around 25 of the 102 companies had opened. Linlar then proceeded to miss a number of the extension deadlines and has now had its license officially rescinded. That leaves nine dispensaries that have not yet been approved.
Those other dispensaries, Tilburg explained, are not yet operational primarily due to COVID-19 which closed state offices and reduced the ability for construction to start or continue. If not for the pandemic, these remaining nine would be close to being licensed. These dispensaries have been given an extended deadline for establishing location and building permits which gives them 90 days after the state of emergency related to COVID-19 ends.
“That should provide ample time for those that are outstanding who have made significant progress to finally become licensed and operational,” Tilburg said. “And LinLar is the exception there where they provided no request to extend.”
The meeting, which was online, had more than 70 attendees, which Tilburg noted was a “pretty sizable turnout.”
The next MMCC meeting is expected to take place in-person, the commission explained, while making sure to take into account social distancing. A date has not yet been announced.
Image by Kathy Wyche