After 5 Years of Delays, Medical Marijuana Becomes Available in Maryland

By Kelly Burch 12/06/17

Prices are starting out high, but “after six months, [they'll] be on par with what people will be paying in the black market."

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Open for business.

In 2013 the governor of Maryland signed a law that established a medical marijuana program in the state, but it wasn’t until last Friday that dispensaries opened, nearly four-and-a-half years after the legislation was finalized.

Proponents of medical marijuana celebrated and nearly 200 people lined up to purchase legal pot at one dispensary, according to The Washington Post.

“The most important thing is that patients will be getting an opportunity for a new class of therapeutic drugs that will continue to expand as the science continues to expand,” said Dan Morhaim, a Maryland state delegate representing Baltimore county. Morhaim, a physician, advocated in the state legislature for medical marijuana.

Sales of medical cannabis were delayed in part because the initial bill allowed only academic medical centers to distribute marijuana, but none were willing to become involved, according to Newsweek. The law was eventually amended to allow dispensaries outside medical centers.

However, the medical marijuana industry in the state still faces hurdles. There is not a large supply of legal weed, but there is a lot of demand, so many dispensaries are limiting sales to pre-registered customers, according to The Post.

In September, the newspaper reported that 19 companies had been approved to grow medical marijuana in the state, but dispensaries reported that there are still issues with the medical marijuana supply. Dispensaries have also come up against local zoning laws that make it difficult for them to operate.

“It’s going to be a little bit more drama, regrettably, at the beginning,” said Darrell Carrington, a lobbyist for medical marijuana companies. “However, everyone is over the moon that we finally have a program.”

Another barrier is the high cost of medical marijuana. One dispensary said on Facebook that one ounce, which would last most medical users about a month, will cost $680, which is higher than in most other states with medical marijuana and significantly more expensive than drugs bought on the black market. However, dispensary owners said that they expect prices to fall as the industry gets established.

“After six months, we’ll be on par with what people will be paying in the black market,” said Charlie Mattingly, who runs Southern Maryland Relief dispensary. “I just need my foot in the door; I’m not trying to gouge anybody in the first year... Every new market and new state starts a little bit high.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.