Medical marijuana in the state of Maryland has hit another snag, but this time, the federal government has nothing to do with it. Instead, one of the companies that expected to receive a license to grow medical marijuana from the state is now suing.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has been tasked with choosing which companies receive a license to grow medical marijuana. They are allowed to choose 15 companies, and the rest will have to wait until 2018 to reapply. In the lawsuit, GTI Maryland claims state officials broke their own rules by first including – then subsequently exempting – them from the list of chosen candidates.
According to the claim, an impartial study by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) voted 5-0 to include GTI Maryland among 14 other applicants to be considered for a grow license. This was a double-blind selection process that only took credentials into account. Company names, employees, and other personally-identifiable information is all removed.
GTI Maryland currently supplies or distributes medical marijuana in three other states – Illinois, Massachusetts and Nevada. They have applied for and received 10 marijuana-related licenses from other states in the past. As such, they were sure they could earn a license based on their credentials.
On July 27, 15 finalists were selected by RESI for pre-approval – GTI Maryland being one of them. However, according to the lawsuit, the committee ignored RESI’s recommendations and dropped GTI Maryland from the top 15 candidates just 48 hours later.
In an August meeting, the commission announced that it was removing two finalists from the list due to their geographic location. GTI Maryland, which is based in Bethesda, did not satisfy the commission’s need to foster geographic diversity. The commission wants to allow more companies from other states to participate.
Phil Andrews insists that the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission said that a company’s location “is not relevant” in a published FAQ. This secret August meeting to reverse the RESI subcommittee’s recommendations is the lawsuit’s main point of contention. Instead of GTI Maryland, the lawsuit claims, a far less qualified candidate was put in their place. GTI Maryland insists this move, which GTI attorney Phil Andrews calls “a classic flip flop”, cost them tens of millions of dollars.
However, Buddy Robshaw, the vice chairman of the Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission, believes this to be a misunderstanding. He has since told the Washington Post that the commission meant the exact addresses of grow sites “is not relevant”. Where the company is based out of, however, is.
The attorney representing the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has not reviewed the lawsuit yet, and would not comment on the pending litigation. All 16 members of the commission and the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene have all been named as defendants.
To date, 1,080 companies have sought a license to grow from the commission, though only 15 of them will be awarded. If a company is not given permission to grow, however, they may still be able to participate. There are still up to 94 licenses left to be issued to dispensaries, who may weigh and sell the medical marijuana product.
The lawsuit is backed by former Baltimore Ravens player Eugene Monroe, a leading marijuana advocate.
“You don’t change the rules after the game has been played, and that’s what happened here,” the ex-Ravens player said.
Lawmakers have legalized medical marijuana over three years ago. However, obstacles such as this most recent lawsuit continue to indefinitely delay the process. In July of this year, the industry was rocked by scandal when Delegate Dan Morhaim, a Baltimore County lawmaker and leading advocate for medical marijuana, was revealed to be working as the clinical director for one of the company’s seeking to obtain a growing license. Critics fear he would use his political connections to influence the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to vote for “his” company. So far, no lawsuits have arisen.