(Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

Delinquent Maryland medical marijuana companies get more time to meet requirements

Businesses were supposed to have finished inspections and final background checks within a year of receiving preliminary approval

Maryland medical cannabis regulators on Monday gave final approvals to three more cultivation centers and two processing companies – and announced they would give 10 other companies that missed a key deadline additional time to complete their licensing requirements.

The businesses were supposed to have finished inspections and final background checks within a year of receiving preliminary approval from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission last August.

Other businesses who applied for licenses but were denied, and state lawmakers who are allied with them, are monitoring the final-approval process closely, hoping that companies who missed the deadline would be rejected and their own companies would get another chance to break into the potentially lucrative legal marijuana industry.

Commissioner Charles Smith, who is the state’s attorney for Frederick County, said regulators decided against rescinding preliminary approval for the two growers and eight processors who missed the deadline, and will monitor their progress in the coming weeks.

“They’ll look at it on a case-by-case basis,” said Patrick Jameson, the executive director of the commission.

The medical marijuana program, first legalized in 2013, has so far licensed a dozen growers, six processors and a single dispensary, in Frederick County. Retail outlets have until December to pass final vetting and inspections.

One company that received preliminary approval, MaryMed, was ultimately denied a cultivation and processing license amid questions over a federal probe into its out-of-state affiliates. The company is appealing that decision.

The commission is the target of several lawsuits alleging the process of choosing companies was unfair. In addition, various state lawmakers have called for additional licenses to be awarded, or an overhaul of the program. Those critics include the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, which objects to the dearth of black-owned businesses in the medical cannabis industry .

The commission has also been probing potential conflicts between some of the companies and the independent experts hired by the state to review their applications.

One such company had its application for a processing license reviewed by a team that included the wife of one of its executives, The Washington Post reported last month. That company is among the eight prospective processors that have been granted extra time to complete the final requirements.

Marijuana regulators on Monday also discussed expanding the number of processors licensed by the state, which – unlike the number of growers – is not capped by law.

Darrell Carrington, a lobbyist for several prospective companies, said a bigger pool of processors would mean a broader range of medical marijuana products available on the market and, potentially, more minority and women-owned companies.

But Jake Van Wingerden, who chairs an association of pre-licensed growers and processors, said those first companies, “made assumptions and business decisions based on the original award numbers, and we believe it is premature to add any additional licenses at this time before the market is even up and running.”