The director of Maryland's embattled medical marijuana program has resigned, reports the Baltimore Sun, the second director to do so in the past two years. Patrick Jameson, a former state trooper, said in a statement that “the time has come for me to pursue other interests,” and will leave his position at the end of this month. The previous director of the program, Hannah Byron, resigned from the program in January 2016, leaving the program without a director until Jameson took office in April 2016.
Despite being legalized back in 2013, Maryland's medical cannabis program is still not fully operational due to a number of legal issues and departmental changes. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) took four years to finally award its permits and licenses to MMJ businesses, but the process was even further delayed by a number of lawsuits contesting the fairness of the licensing process. The state's Legislative Black Caucus sued the MMCC for failing to award licenses to minority business owners, and individual applicants to the program also sued after the commission approved lower-scoring applicantions based on their location in the state.
In April, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered a study to investigate whether minorities were getting equal opportunity access to the medical cannabis industry. The Legislative Black Caucus also proposed a bill to expand the state's program by adding licenses for minority business owners, but the legislation did not pass. This summer, Hogan replaced ten of the commission's 16 members, doubling the number of minority commissioners from two to four.
Jameson began his stint as director while the MMCC was accepting over 1,000 applications for MMJ licenses, and is leaving just weeks before the deadline for medical cannabis dispensaries to open. Nearly 100 dispensaries in the state must be ready to operate by December 8th, or they could lose their chance to open at all. MMCC chairman Brian Lopez said that inspectors are currently reviewing the final applications for 40 of these dispensaries.
Lopez told the Baltimore Sun that the MMCC did not request Jameson's resignation, and that he wished the director well. “We think he worked very hard, and we think he did some very good things with the commission to make it more efficient,” said Lopez, who also noted that “the tone of the commission is changing.” In his resignation statement, Jameson said that “it has been an honor to help sick people and launch a new lucrative industry in Maryland.”