How To Open A Dispensary In Maryland (New Guide For 2022)

Overview

Are you wondering how to open a dispensary in Maryland? This page is dedicated to keeping you up to date on the latest news and information relevant to opening a cannabis business in Maryland. This includes helpful insights on what is to come next.

Maryland is now the 20th state to legalize marijuana for recreational use. On November 8th, 2022, voters in Maryland gave Question 4 of the 2022 referendum their approval. The proposed change to the constitution was approved by a vote of 65 percent to 35 percent. A substantial portion of the program’s regulatory and licensing structure must be developed through new legislation. The date of full legalization is not until July 1st, 2023. At that time, possession laws will be revised.

Here’s a timeline of marijuana legalization efforts in Maryland:

In July 2021, House Speaker Adrienne Jones pledged that the House intends to put marijuana legalization on the 2022 ballot. A 10-member legalization workgroup was formed to study the best way to establish the legal framework for the reform. Rep. Luke Clippinger (D), chair of the workgroup, said they would address issues including business licensing, tax policy, and social equity. 

The workgroup took the first step toward legalization when they first met on September 8, 2021. Among the topics they discussed were:

  • The history of legalization across the country
  • Arrangement to work on creating legislation for a regulated marijuana market 
  • The fast development of Maryland’s legalization movement, several policy considerations, and growing bipartisan support as presented by John Hudak, a Brookings Institution researcher

Following months of research on adult-use cannabis legalization, Rep. Clippinger pre-filed a bill to bring a marijuana legalization ballot proposal before the state’s voters in the year 2022. The measure has been labeled House Bill 1, indicating priority, and was introduced when the General Assembly reconvened on January 12, 2022. If approved by voters, the state constitution would be changed to allow adults 21 and older to use and possess cannabis starting in July 2023. In addition, on February 4, Sen. Jill Carter (D-Baltimore) introduced SB692, a legislation to completely legalize recreational cannabis in Maryland.

During the 90-day legislative session, legislators examined topics related to the state’s $4.5 billion budget surplus. The legalization of recreational marijuana is one of the issues that legislators addressed. 

During a vote on February 25th, the Maryland House of Delegates approved a measure that would put the decision to legalize cannabis in the hands of voters. The result was 96 to 34. If House Bill 1 passes through the Senate chamber, voters should expect to see the issue on the November general election ballot. HB1 states that from July 1, 2023, everyone over the age of 21 may consume and possess cannabis. 

On April 1st, Maryland legislators decided to place the legalization of recreational marijuana on the November ballot, putting the decision in the hands of the people. In accordance with the constitutional amendment, recreational marijuana will not be allowed until July 2023 for those who are 21 years old or older. There are provisions in the legislation that specifies a transitional period between January 1 and July 1, during which a fine for possession of marijuana under an ounce and a half would be levied. 

On September 8th, a campaign to legalize recreational marijuana in Maryland was launched, asking voters to choose “yes on 4” in November, the ballot question regarding the legalization of pot possession for adults over 21. 

On October 13th, the findings of an internal survey released by the Yes on 4 campaign and carried out jointly by Sojourn Strategies and Victoria Research were made public. It was discovered that 69 percent of eligible voters in the state support the referendum issue, which, if adopted, would trigger legislation to enact rules regarding marijuana. In a second poll, respondents indicated, by a ratio of 59 percent to 41 percent, that they had a “strong” interest in the legalization of cannabis.

Legislation to legalize marijuana for recreational purposes did begin to advance during the 2021 legislature session with two separate bills, HB 32 — The Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, Inclusion, Restoration, and Rehabilitation Act of 2021, introduced by Delegate Jazz Lewis, and SB 708 — Cannabis Legalization and Regulation, introduced by Senator Brian Feldman. However, no votes were held for either bill. The focus has now shifted to 2022 legalization.

On June 14th, 2022, the first hearing was conducted by a Maryland legislative marijuana workgroup after the passage of two pieces of legislation to place cannabis legalization on the November ballot and to adopt some first laws should voters approve the reform. At the meeting, members of the Maryland House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup heard expert testimony on the present landscape of marijuana policy in order to influence their future approach to licensing and regulatory concerns. 

There is increasing support for this initiative from residents and all sides of the political spectrum in the state.

  • Results from a Goucher College Poll show that 66 percent of Maryland residents support adult-use marijuana. 77 percent of Democrats, 50 percent of Republicans, and 60 percent of independent voters support the legalization of marijuana for adults.
  • Maryland Cannabis Policy Coalition asserts that taxing and regulating cannabis will produce thousands of jobs and generate millions in tax revenue, advance social justice, keep the sale of cannabis away from schools, and promote public health.
  • Pressure to legalize recreational marijuana in Maryland is building regionally, as the state is already lagging behind its neighbors like Virginia, for example.

How big is the opportunity?

William Tilburg, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, noted that Maryland reached $1 billion in medical cannabis sales after its launch in 2017. He commented, “more businesses and more patients” account for this sales surge.

The impact on the state of recreational legalization would be huge. According to BDS Analytics, a cannabis market research firm, legalization may help the state reach its next billion in sales by 2024, with two-thirds of the total sales volume coming from adult-use sales.

Medical Marijuana Program Opportunities

An effort that made the state of Maryland the 21st medical marijuana state was HB 881 (Medical Marijuana – Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission), which Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley signed into law on April 14, 2014. The bill intended to create a way for patients to access and utilize cannabis medical treatment. The bill includes:

  • Approval of individuals as certifying physicians
  • State-licensed production and dispensing of marijuana
  • Creation of an application review process
  • Appointment of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) to oversee regulation, licensing, registration, inspection, and testing measures

A patient is eligible if a provider recommends treatment with medical cannabis for a qualifying medical condition such as cachexia, anorexia, or another severe chronic medical condition for which other treatments are ineffective. A full list of qualifying conditions is shown here

Since its inception, the program has grown rapidly to 123,525 patients registered in January 2021 — that is a 42 percent increase from 87,019 people registered in January 2020. The MMCC has issued 22 licensed processors, 22 licensed, and 102 pre-approved medical cannabis dispensaries

At this time, no new license applications for medicinal marijuana are being accepted. However, here is the information on the requirements to start a Medicinal Marijuana Business in Maryland.

Maryland Medical Cannabis License Types and Fees

Grower

  • Allowed to grow cannabis in a commercial facility. 
  • Grower license: $6,000 (stage 1: $2,000; stage 2: $4,000) application fee, $125,000 annual license fee
  • Grower and dispensary license: $11,000 (stage 1: $3,000; stage 2: $8,000) application fee, $165,000 annual license fee

Dispensary

  • Allowed to sell cannabis for medicinal uses to patients and caregivers. 
  • $5,000 (stage 1: $1,000; stage 2: $4,000) application fee, $40,000 annual license fee

Processor

  • Allowed to take raw cannabis plants and create new products like concentrates, topicals, and edibles. 
  • $6,000 (stage 1: $2,000; stage 2: $4,000) application fee, $40,000 annual license fee

Recreational Use Legalization

As mentioned above, voters in Maryland approved Question 4 on November 8, 2022, making it the twentieth state to legalize recreational marijuana usage. Every adult over the age of 21 will be permitted to possess up to 1.5 ounces of cannabis beginning on the first of July in 2023. 

HB 1 is accompanied by two pieces of companion legislation: HB 837, which is sponsored by Rep. Luke Clippinger, and SB 833, which is sponsored by Senator Brian Feldman.

HB 837 and SB 833 include details for initial steps for legalization, such as limits on possession and home cultivation, limited expungement, and funding for businesses owned by minorities and women. These provisions are contingent on voter approval of HB 1. They do not establish a license or regulating structure, and their policy does not involve the cultivation of cannabis at home. 

The possession of between 1.5 and 2.5 ounces of marijuana would simply result in a civil fine and would not be deemed a criminal violation.

We anticipate many new events through 2022 to unfold that will affect when and what recreational legalization will look like. By adding yourself to our Maryland Cannabis Mailing List (below), we will keep you updated on all relevant news, and not so easy to find news and comments related to Maryland Legalization below. This includes but is not limited to:

  • How much will it cost to open a dispensary in Maryland?
  • What are the requirements to get a marijuana business license and open marijuana dispensaries in Maryland?
  • What special programs will be available?
  • And more

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