High demand for medical marijuana licenses in county – CapitalGazette.com
At least 56 groups want to open medical marijuana shops in the county, with another 22 applicants seeking licenses in a district shared with Prince George’s County.
Maryland’s medical marijuana commission has released a breakdown of dispensary applications by state senatorial district received by the Nov. 6 deadline. Though only two dispensaries will be allowed in each area, the new data provides a snapshot of where interest in the medical marijuana industry is dispersed throughout the state.
Maryland received over 1,000 applications from entrepreneurs hoping to tap into the medical cannabis business. About 80 percent of those filers were seeking dispenser licenses.
The most popular area for applicants out of the state’s 47 districts was in Takoma Park.
In the initial phase, entrepreneurs seeking grower or processor licenses did not have to report the area where they want to operate. The commission received 146 grower applicants, vying for 15 slots. Another 124 want to be marijuana processors.
Shad Ewart, a professor at Anne Arundel Community College, teaches a class called “Entrepreneurial Opportunities in Emerging Markets: Marijuana Legalization.” He said four of his students have applied for licenses — three of them hopeful dispensers and one wanting to grow crops. Of the dispenser applicants, two applied in Baltimore City and another applied in Baltimore County.
Some of these ventures may be looking for a market where they anticipate high demand, Ewart said, while others may be trying to open in places where they think there will be less competition.
But selecting the district could be more philosophical than strategic, he said. “I think that perhaps some of it could be that they are looking for the nice, softest place to land.”
Whether Anne Arundel County will be a strong market for the industry remains to be seen, Ewart said; getting sites near Fort George G. Meade, for example, could be advantageous for those wanting to treat patients with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder.
Officials said many applicants sought licenses in multiple districts, despite the fact the regulations prohibit candidates from receiving more than one dispenser license. That strategy, however, leads many observers to speculate that outside groups are trying to obtain Maryland licenses.
John A. Pica Jr., a former state senator, is a lobbyist and lawyer for Alternative Medicine Maryland, a group that wants to open a dispensary on Dorsey Road in Glen Burnie. Pica’s client not only wants to sell cannabis, but also applied to grow and process it.
If Alternative Medicine Maryland is issued the license to cultivate marijuana, those facilities would operate in Easton.
Pica said the company was founded by a doctor with a national chain of clinics and plans to conduct medical research, such as study which varieties of cannabis are more effective for different disorders.
“We look at this as medicine,” he said. “We don’t look at this as a place you can go get pot.”
The Maryland General Assembly passed a measure in 2014 allowing patients to access marijuana if a specialized physician recommends it. Among Anne Arundel County legislators, only Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena, and Steve Schuh, then a Republican delegate, opposed it.
Despite its vast support from the delegation, some lawmakers still have their reservations. Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis, said he voted in favor of medical marijuana but has concerns that using the substance continues to be a federal offense.
Sixteen applied for dispensary licenses in Astle’s district, according to the commission’s data.
“There’s a whole segment, and frankly in the legislature as well, that say ‘Yeah, let’s just open this up,'” Astle said. “The medical people say there’s a definite benefit from THC … and then I hear others say there’s no definitive scientific evidence, the evidence is anecdotal. So I don’t know.”
The commission will work with Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute to develop a timeline for application reviews. The institute will conduct evaluations of the applicants as well as assist with the scoring.
Since September the County Council has worked on County Executive Schuh’s bill to implement medical marijuana in Anne Arundel County. That legislation, introduced by the county executive, originally prohibited all growing, processing and dispensing. When it appeared the bill wouldn’t pass, the administration offered amendments to restrict where operations could take place.
Recent proposed changes would allow growing and processing under conditional zoning rather than through special exception approval, which necessitates a public hearing. Dispensaries would still need a special exception from an administrative hearing officer.
The council may put the measure to a vote at its Dec. 7 meeting.
Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton, said he was surprised to learn 15 had applied for dispenser licenses in his small district.
“No. 1, it shows that there is a business perception that there is a significant need for this medical product in the state of Maryland,” he said. “No. 2, it appears there is a recognition by small business owners that this is a financially stable area that could support patients.”
Number of dispensary applicants
District 21* (Sen. Jim Rosapepe, D-College Park): 22.
District 30 (Sen. John Astle, D-Annapolis): 16.
District 31 (Sen. Bryan Simonaire, R-Pasadena): 10.
District 32 (Sen. Ed DeGrange, D-Millersville): 15.
District 33 (Sen. Ed Reilly, R-Crofton): 15.
*This district straddles western Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.
Source: Natalie M. LaPrade Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission