DENVER, CO - April 25, 2016: High Level, a medical marijuana shop on Colfax Ave in Denver. Colfax was once called the "longest, wicked street in America" by Playboy Magazine. (Photo by Vince Chandler / The Denver Post)

Maryland cannabis businesses cleared of conflict of interest, approved for launch

Medical marijuana regulators in Maryland have approved licenses for two cannabis businesses that were under investigation for potential conflicts of interest, after concluding that no evidence had been uncovered that should preclude the businesses from launching.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission Monday approved growing and processing licenses for Doctor’s Orders, which plans to operate in Dorchester County, Maryland, and a processor license for Baltimore’s Temescal Wellness.

It also issued dispensary licenses to Allegany Medical Marijuana, Southern Maryland Relief in St. Mary’s County, and Peninsula Alternative Health in Wicomico County, bringing the total number of storefronts approved to sell medical marijuana to six.

“The Commission takes its role concerning the integrity of the medical cannabis program and a fair application process very seriously,” commission executive director Patrick Jameson said in an email, “and will continue to closely monitor any and all situations of non compliance to ensure the public trust.”

In early August, commissioners asked businesses that had been awarded preliminary licenses whether they had personal or business ties to the independent experts who graded their applications.

That inquiry followed a Washington Post report that revealed close relationships between some reviewers and some companies that won preliminary licenses. The Post reported that a person listed as general manager of Temescal Wellness’ planned processing facility is married to a woman who had been hired to review applications. Both the reviewer and her spouse said they were unaware of each other’s affiliations.

Concerns regarding Doctor’s Orders centered on the role played by Maryland state Del. Dan Morhaim, who was formally reprimanded by the legislature this year for using his position as a lawmaker to influence marijuana regulation without fully disclosing that he was a paid consultant for Doctor’s Orders.

The legislature’s investigation found no evidence that Morhaim violated disclosure laws or used his public office for financial benefit. But it did conclude that the lawmaker had helped push policies that could have benefited Doctor’s Orders while he had an open line to regulators.

Industry officials say they expect medical marijuana to be available for purchase in Maryland by January, 2018.