Maryland judge halts medical marijuana cultivation licensing

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A Maryland circuit court judge on Thursday afternoon issued a temporary restraining order, forcing the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission to hold off on issuing any more MMJ cultivation licenses for at least 10 days.

The order is the result of an ongoing lawsuit filed last October by Alternative Medicine Maryland, one of the cultivation license applicants that wasn’t awarded one of the 15 provisional permits. The first full cultivation license was just awarded last week, and the commission has yet to finalize the other 14, which will be the only commercial marijuana grow licenses allowed in Maryland.

The order expires June 4, but a hearing on a possible preliminary injunction is scheduled for June 2. An injunction could stall the issuance of the other 14 cultivation licenses even longer, until the lawsuit is concluded.

Alternative Medicine Maryland contends in its suit that the commission “illegally ignored racial diversity when picking firms” for the cultivation licenses, the Baltimore Sun reported.

The order affects only growers, however, and dispensary license winners are free to continue building out storefronts and preparing for launch.

ForwardGro, the only full cultivation award winner, will be allowed to begin growing but will also have to justify keeping the license in court next week, the Sun reported.

State regulators have said they hope for a late summer 2017 launch for MMJ sales, but the restraining order is another sign the full start of Maryland’s MMJ industry could be pushed back. And if Alternative Medicine Maryland wins, the entire licensing application process may have to start from scratch, according to the Sun.