Cannabis plants grow in the greenhouse at Vireo Health's medical marijuana cultivation facility in Johnstown, New York. (Drew Angerer, Getty Images)

Maryland’s long-delayed medical marijuana program finally ready to grow

Medical marijuana regulators in Maryland on Monday authorized eight companies to grow the drug and four businesses to process the plant into medicine.

The decision at a meeting of the state’s medical cannabis commission comes one year after the panel chose 15 growers and 15 processors from a large pool of applicants. The winners in that preliminary round were given one year to pass inspections, background checks and financial vetting in order to get final licenses to start operating. The companies approved Monday have all gone successfully through the vetting process.

In May, the commission gave final approval to Maryland’s first legal marijuana grower, ForwardGro of Anne Arundel County, and suspended another firm, MaryMed, amid questions over legal troubles embroiling its parent company.

The remaining cultivation and processing companies pre-approved last year have until Aug. 28 to obtain licenses.

Patrick Jameson, the commission’s executive director, says his agency continues to conduct inspections, and may grant extensions if companies run into delays outside their control, such as problems obtaining local approval.

Maryland’s medical marijuana program has been mired in controversy and litigation over the way companies were selected to launch the potentially lucrative industry.

If the commission denies licenses to any pre-approved growers or processors, that will create opportunities for other businesses to enter the market.

State marijuana regulators also launched a probe of potential conflicts between companies and experts hired by the state to grade their applications, following a report in The Washington Post that revealed connections.

In one instance, Temescal Wellness’ successful processor application was evaluated by the wife of the listed general manager.

Temescal received a cultivation license on Monday, but not a processor license. A representative of Temescal at the commission meeting declined to comment, but a lawyer for the firm previously said it was cooperating with the commission’s request for information. Jameson, the commission executive director, says the company remains under investigation.