Maryland Commission Approves Final Regulations
August 19, 2015 | Mike Liszewski
|Image Courtesy of Medical Jane.
Note: (Aug. 26, 2015) Corrections have been to reflect the vote outcome and application availability dates.
Earlier today, the Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission voted to approve final regulations for Maryland's medical cannabis program. Today's vote was the culmination for 16 months worth of work since the Commission's inception in April 2014. Today's approval vote means that there were no substantive changes made to the regulations from the draft that was published in the June 26, 2015 edition of the Maryland Register (see page 812); however, several minor technical changes were made and will be available to the public shortly on the Commission website. The Commission vote to approve the regulations was near-unanimous with one vote against from the Maryland State's Attorney appointee.
The Commission also announced today the timetable for implementation is still on schedule. Applications for those seeking to become growers, processors and dispensaries will be available in September. Physicians and patient application forms will be available later in the year. Under the Maryland law, physicians must register with the Commission and be approved for the conditions that they can recommend for. However, the Commission is strongly encouraged to approve most types of conditions that a physicians seeks to recommend, and the Commission can approve any condition if they feel it is appropriate.
Patients should be aware that physician referral services cannot guarantee them that their physicians will be approved by the Commission or that their recommendations will be valid under Maryland's laws and regulations until after a physician has registered with the Commission (see Commission FAQ). Physician referral services can be helpful in creating a pathway to safe and legal access for patients whose primary care doctor and/or specialist refuses to incorporate medical cannabis into their practice. However, such organizations should not take advantage of patients by making promises to them before regulations are approved, let alone before patient and physician applications are available.
In addition to the applications for businesses, the approval of Maryland's medical cannabis regulations means that the implementation of the program now also turns to the local control component. The statute permits local governments to set up zoning and planning requirements for medical cannabis businesses. Local governments in Maryland should know that dispensaries make good neighbors and are not magnets for crime, in fact, just the opposite, as the increased foot traffic and security features at dispensaries such as video cameras actually a small, but measurable deterrence effect on crime. Politicians are already drafting zoning ordinances that may be too restrictive, so patient-advocates would be wise to beginning engaging with their city and county governments to make sure that they adopt sensible regulations that do not negatively impact safe and legal access for patients. For tips on how to engage with your elected officials and make the most out of civic meetings, and much, much more, visit ASA's Medical Cannabis Advocate's Training Center for educational tutorials.