I want to share something with all of you: I don’t like waiting.
I don’t like to wait for service at a restaurant, I loathe waiting in lines for roller coasters (but love getting to the front seat of Great America’s American Eagle), and I have a visceral reaction whenever government takes longer to make decisions than it reasonably should.
Whether it is my local city hall staff taking weeks to decide whether I can cut down a tree on my own property, or a state government waiting to announce who has been selected for limited medical cannabis licenses – my blood pressure spikes and I want to take action to push the decision along using any (legal) means possible.
The tree on the right was saved by local government staff…but I will find a way to get you, tree. I will find a way…
So you can imagine how I reacted today when the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (“MMCC”) again punted on announcing who will be selected for growing, processing, and dispensing medical cannabis in The Old Line State. The MMCC met and announced that, although applications were received on November 6, 2015, they do not expect to announce selected businesses until at least August 2016. A total of 10 months waiting – or more. On top of the fact that Maryland has been tweaking its medical cannabis law since 2013, this is an unacceptable delay. This is perhaps more striking because my interactions with the MMCC commissioners and Maryland Department of Health and Metal Hygiene staff have been very good – they are capable and compassionate.
Maryland’s program implementation has been relatively slow and below the radar. The state’s Republican Governor waited three months to appoint a new director of the MMCC when the previous director had stepped down:
“Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has tapped a former state trooper and Republican political candidate as Maryland’s top medical marijuana regulator.
Patrick Jameson started Monday as executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, a spokesman for Hogan said.”
Okay – how does 10 months compare to other medical cannabis states that have a competitive, merit-based selection process? Maryland is at the bottom of the pack.
Hawaii, Minnesota and New York announced licenses within 3 months of receiving applications, Illinois took approximately 3 months (discounting for a 3 month political delay), and Florida and Massachusetts needed roughly 6 months.
Why the delay? No one knows. It could be due to the large number of applications, but Maryland instituted a strict page limit reducing the size of the applications compared to the other preceding states. You could chalk it up to the transition to a new Executive Director, but by his own admission, he doesn’t have a vote in the license selection. I presume the delay is due to Maryland’s contracted application scorers: Towson University’s Economic Studies Institute, and its subject matter expert sub-contractors. Could the sub-contractors have over-promised their skill-sets? Could unknown conflicts have arisen? It does not particularly matter – the delay has been too long.
What is perhaps most surprising is the lack of vocal anger by potential Maryland patients. To date I have only seen a solitary Baltimore Sun letter to the editor on the topic from parents of potential patients:
“The Natalie LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission has made strides to move forward the process to bring safe medical cannabis as a treatment option in the state of Maryland. But now that a new executive director has been appointed, the time to finish the job started in 2014 is long past. Families in Maryland are pleading with our elected officials and the commission to implement the medical marijuana program.
The electrical firestorms in our kid’s brain, and in those of every other epileptic child in Maryland, loom every day. Thus, every day, we must have available all the tools to do anything — including medical cannabis — to stop the seizures.”
The fact that bureaucratic delays are keeping these patients at bay from the medicine they need is unacceptable. Hopefully MMCC will find a way to surprise everyone and expedite the timeline for license announcements. Until then, it’s time for all of us to be outraged…