If you thought marijuana licensing was slow in Florida, then you’ll think the licensed marijuana economy in Maryland is moving at an absolutely glacial pace.

In Maryland, medical marijuana was legalized in 2013. It’s nearly 2016, but medical marijuana is still not available to patients in Maryland. According to a press release from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC), medical marijuana won’t be available until the summer of 2017. And that’s if there are no additional delays.

The deadline for license applications from Maryland marijuana growers, processors, and dispensaries was November 6, 2015. This week, the MMCC reported that it had received over 1,000 license applications in total (146 grower applications, 124 processor applications, and 811 dispensary applications) and would soon begin putting applications from growers and processors through the first round of licensing approvals. The MMCC is calling this “Stage One approvals” and expects to be done and award licenses to growers and processors by the summer of 2016.

The MMCC wasn’t expecting such a high number of dispensary applications, so all of those applications are going into what is being referred to as “Stage Two approvals.” The MMCC expects to announce in January 2016 when that second process will be completed and licenses to dispensaries will be awarded.

The Slow Road from Application to License

Why will it take so long to review the processor and grower applications (remember, we don’t know when the dispensary licenses will be awarded, but it’s probably safe to assume that it will be after summer 2016)?

The slow pace could have something to do with the application review process. To sum it up, processor and grower licenses were submitted on or before November 6, 2015. Here’s what happens next:

  • Applications that meet the mandatory qualifications criteria are reviewed by the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) of Towson University, which assigns a unique identifying number to each application and separates each application into sections.
  • The application sections are evaluated by third party subject matter experts.
  • The RESI scores and ranks the applications.
  • The Commission reviews the RESI ranking and selects the grower and processor facilities to receive initial licenses.
  • Each selected grower and processor facility has 365 days to raise capital, acquire real estate, secure zoning approvals, build facilities, install equipment and systems, and hire and train staff.
  • Within 365 days, each grower and processor that received an initial license must pass a final inspection.

The Marijuana License Reality in Maryland

While the MMCC received over 1,000 grower, processor, and dispensary applications, far fewer licenses will actually be granted. Regulations will allow only 15 grower licenses in the entire state and a maximum of two dispensary licenses per state Senate district. On the other hand, there can be an unlimited number of processor licenses.

Clearly, businesses are eager to get into the marijuana market and patients are even more eager to get the medical marijuana they need. As The Washington Post reports, the inability to access medical marijuana in Maryland is forcing families to separate and move to different states so children can get relief when other drugs have failed them. Other Maryland residents continue to suffer from illnesses that medical marijuana could help.

Ironically, the only thing holding up the licensed marijuana process at this point seems to be the process, itself.

Check out the infographic below for all of the details.

Licensed Medical Marijuana in Maryland Infographic