Scammers Complicate Maryland's Medical Marijuana Dilemma

By Paul Gaita 01/06/17

The state hasn't launched its MMJ program yet, but that hasn't stopped scammers from trying to cash in on hopeful patients. 

Dishonest man crossing fingers behind his back.

As patients with chronic illnesses in Maryland hope that the state will make good on its now four-year-old vow to launch its medical marijuana program, some have also fallen prey to scammers who promise early access to cannabis.

Representatives from both the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which oversees the state's regulation efforts, and the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association have fielded calls from hopeful patients who said they were offered either identification cards ("marijuana cards") or examinations that would "pre-approve" them for medical marijuana. 

"This type of fraudulent activity preys against the most vulnerable people in society, and we will do everything possible to stop this behavior," said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. "Only patient identification cards issued by the Commission are legitimate. At this point, no ID cards have been issued."

Darrell Carrington, executive director of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, also expressed concern about such incidents, which he believes may undermine attempts to get the real program off the ground. "Groups that are operating nefariously and preying on people’s hopes and desires do a huge disservice," he noted.

When Maryland launches its medical marijuana program—said to begin this year—information cards will be a secondary element in how patients will receive treatment.

Both medical professionals and patients will join an online registry monitored by state regulators, who will then allow doctors to issue online certifications for patients to acquire cannabis. The certifications will be good for 120 days. Patients will only be able to obtain a 30-day supply at a time from licensed dispensaries.

Doctors have been invited to join the registry, and the state has issued preliminary licenses for companies that will allow them to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana.

None of these companies have begun that work, as they are still waiting for the state to issue final licenses. Doctors, too, are waiting for full state approval. Patients, in the meantime, are still waiting for an invitation to register, and the projected launch of the program—late 2017—requires all growers, processors and dispensaries to be fully operational before they will be allowed to sell.  

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix

Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.