Medical marijuana patients register at the counter with office personnel at Allegany Medical Marijuana Dispensary on in Dec. 1, 2017, in Cumberland, Md. (Ricky Carioti, The Washington Post)

“It’s a very tense situation”: Maryland dispensaries off to bumpy start with shortages, closures

Maryland’s medical marijuana dispensaries finally opened this past week after years of delay, but many are running out of the drug as limited supply is struggling to keep up with high demand.

Five of seven licensed dispensaries that started selling cannabis products in recent days say they’ve either completely or almost run out of flower – the raw part of the marijuana plant that is smoked or vaporized. The other two are limiting sales to a small group of preregistered patients.

Kannavis in Frederick County sold out of flower on its opening day Saturday, but still has pre-filled cartridges that can be attached to vaporizing pens. Like other dispensaries, Kannavis is banking on additional marijuana shipments before this weekend, and is keeping its patients updated on its Facebook page, website and email list.

“It’s all in a flux. We don’t have confirmation of anything at this point and that’s just the nature of the rollout of this industry,” said owner Jane Klink. “I wish we had something carved out in stone.”

Allegany Medical Marijuana Dispensary, one of the first two shops to open Friday, expects to run out of its remaining products Wednesday after serving about 150 patients. Most high-demand products including tinctures and creams have yet to arrive.

“It’s a very tense situation,” said general manager Mark Van Tyne. “It’s a learning curve, and there’s a lot of growing pains going on right now.

In Montgomery County, two dispensaries ran out of flower early this week and are awaiting the next shipments. Potomac Holistics in Rockville, which made its first sales Friday evening, closed temporarily Monday and then reopened Tuesday. One of the store’s owners, Bill Askinazi, said Wednesday morning that the store was stocked with vape pens and tablets and that about 500 patients have come through since the opening.

“Nothing is perfect in a new industry, especially when it’s coordinated statewide,” Askinazi said.

Rise Bethesda has stayed open since its first sale Saturday morning, said Andy Grossman, a partner at the store’s Illinois-based parent company, Green Thumb Industries. Grossman said the store ran out of flower Tuesday but had received a delivery of Rhythm vape cartridges and was also stocked with Dixie tablets and elixirs.

Grossman said that Montgomery’s third dispensary, Rise Silver Spring, still did not have an opening date because of a product shortage.

Southern Maryland Relief dispensary in Mechanicsville ran out of its higher-end and midrange flower after just four hours of sales Sunday and Monday, leaving it with just its lower-end strains and a shipment of vaporizing pens from Chesapeake Alternatives, a licensed processor.

“Patients are just buying as much of it as they can so they don’t run out,” said Charlie Mattingly, who manages Southern Maryland Relief.

To get medical marijuana, patients must register with the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and receive a recommendation from a doctor or other health-care provider. About 15,000 patients have registered, and 8,500 of them are certified to purchase the drug. Nearly 550 health-care providers have signed up to issue recommendations.

Only 10 of 102 dispensaries preliminarily approved last year by state regulators have completed their licensing requirements.

The Peninsula Alternative Health dispensary in Wicomico County and Wellness Institute of Maryland in Frederick County still have flower because they are conducting soft rollouts.

“Every patient that is registered and isn’t being let in is rightfully upset with us, because they assumed they were going to get it first day,” said Michael Klein, who manages Wellness Institute of Maryland and is turning down preapproved patients. “But they’d be a whole lot more upset if they had to stand out in the cold only to be turned away.”

Peninsula Alternative Health has served fewer than a quarter of its 400 preregistered patients, and is prioritizing sales based on the severity of their conditions and who signed up first. The dispensary plans to open its doors to the public Dec. 19.

“We just didn’t open our doors and have lines of people waiting for 10 hours,” said Anthony Darby, the owner. “We tried to have a very organized opening.”