The Marijuana Legalization Workgroup holds its first session in Annapolis on June 25. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
The Marijuana Legalization Workgroup holds its first session in Annapolis on June 25. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

For those interested in the medical profession with a specific focus on cannabis, come to Maryland, says a state-backed commission.

According to a draft proposal from the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission, higher education institutions, medical operations or an affiliated biomedical research firm can conduct projects “relating to the health effects, medical uses, properties, or composition of medical cannabis.”

However, they must pay a $1,000 registration fee and a $500 renewal fee for each subsequent modified research project.

William C. Tilburg, director of policy and government affairs for the commission, said the fees, not taxpayer dollars, fund the agency.

Plus, he said, “this is already law. We have to do this.”

Gov. Larry Hogan signed into law legislation that not only allows a representative to conduct specific cannabis research, but also for certain licensed processors to transport, package, sell and distribute to a dispensary “edible cannabis products for use by a qualifying patient or caregiver.”

The proposed policy also requires a representative register with the commission and submit to fingerprinting and a criminal background check. If convicted of a drug felony offense, that person may not receive approval to participate in a cannabis project.

The policy remains separate from the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy’s graduate-level course this fall to study, research and analyze cannabis.

According to a course description labeled as the first in the nation dedicated to medical cannabis studies, students will focus on basic science, clinical use, adverse effects and public health and federal and state laws and policies.

Candidates have until Aug. 15 to apply for the course mainly offered online, but some classwork will be at the school’s Montgomery County campus in Rockville.

Meanwhile, an 18-member task force of state senators and delegates plan to hold a second meeting this month in Annapolis to assess the legalization of marijuana in the state.

The task force will determine whether to legalize recreational marijuana and assess business ventures through several formats: criminal justice, public health, taxing and licensing and minority participation.

Since December 2017, the state received $177.6 million in dispensary sales. So far this year through May, it’s nearly $86 million.

So far, about 77 dispensaries have received licenses statewide. The commission approved five more Thursday, June 27 during a meeting in Annapolis. Another six companies received extensions to open up operations that include two in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties and one in Baltimore City.

From a legal perspective, states can manage cannabis businesses based on a federal government appropriations rider, or a provision that protects states from federal oversight.

Although marijuana use remains illegal under the Controlled Substance Act, the federal government cannot require state and local governments to enforce federal law.

Matthew Swinburne, associate director of Network for Public Health Law-Eastern Region of Baltimore, attended the lawmakers’ first workgroup session June 25 to briefly explain the rider provision has been renewed every year through an appropriations bill since 2014. This year’s restriction expires Sept. 30.

Swinburne, whose organization provides legal and policy assistance on federal and state health laws, said the federal government focuses on marijuana prevention on items such as: marijuana transferring from a particular state; revenue for criminal activity; distribution to minors; and growing on federal property and other public lands.

Del. Jay Walker (D-District 26) of Fort Washington asked whether the federal government could go after states for recreational use.

“There could be federal action against recreational use,” Swinburne said, adding it would require vast federal enforcement resources to conduct that task.

Coverage for the Washington Informer includes Prince George’s County government, school system and some state of Maryland government. Received an award in 2019 from the D.C. Chapter of the Society of...

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *