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Maryland Approves First Medical Marijuana Dispensary

The dispensary can open immediately, but cannot sell cannabis yet.

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This Wednesday, Maryland regulators approved the state's first medical marijuana dispensary, The Wellness Institute of Maryland. The company has been authorized to open its doors immediately, and already plans to begin seeing patients. What's missing from the picture is medical marijuana itself, which is not currently available in the state. Only one company has been authorized to grow medical marijuana in the state so far, and its first crop will not be ready until this fall.

Wellness Institute owner Michael Kline said that patients will be able to consult with cannabis professionals and place “pre-orders” for cannabis when it becomes available. "We are fully equipped to deliver medicine as soon as we have it," he said. Kline explained that the individual consultations will appeal to patients who may be apprehensive about taking a federally controlled drug. “Many, if not most people, won't be interested in our model,” he said. “They would like to go in like it's a strip mall or a 7-Eleven.”

At the same time as they authorized the Wellness Institute's license, the state medical marijuana commission delayed a vote on authorizing what would be the state's second licensed cannabis cultivator, Curio Wellness. A commissioner said that the company needs to provide additional information before the vote can proceed.

Curio CEO Michael Bronfein called the delay “regrettable,” and said that state inspectors approved his facility last month, but that the commission never told him about any missing information. "Our state of the art facility is ready," Bronfein said. "Every day the commission fails to provide our stage two license delays patients access to safe, reliable, and effective medicine."

Maryland's medical marijuana program has been off to a slow start, drawing controversy over the lack of racial diversity among the companies who were selected for preliminary licenses. Fewer than 300 doctors in the state have registered to recommend the drug to patients, representing less than 2 percent of the state's 16,000 physicians.

Last August, the state approved 15 preliminary growing licenses and 15 preliminary processing licenses. If any of these companies are not approved for their final licenses by August 15th of this year, they may lose their chance to get involved in the state MMJ industry. "The clock is ticking," said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission. Jameson said that the commission will meet more frequently in the near future in order to approve licenses for applicants who pass state inspection.