Medical marijuana licensing fees stir debate in Maryland – Baltimore Sun

With Maryland’s proposed licensing fees for growing and selling medical marijuana among the highest in the nation, some advocates warn that the steep costs could drive off applicants, crippling the nascent program and limiting access to treatment for tens of thousands of state residents.

Prospective medical marijuana growers would have to pay $125,000 a year for a two-year license, while dispensaries would have to pay $40,000 a year, according to the recommendations of a state commission. Only one state — Illinois — is charging a higher upfront cost for growers.

Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, a lead sponsor of Maryland’s medical marijuana law, called the proposed fees “outrageous.” The 15-member medical marijuana commission is named for Natalie M. LaPrade, Glenn’s mother, who died in 2011 of kidney cancer.

The Baltimore Democrat fears the steep costs could shut out small businesses and increase retail prices so much that marijuana would be unaffordable for some patients. “We have the haves and have-nots all over again,” she said. “That’s ridiculous.”

Others say the steep fees might scare off small operators but are unlikely to chase away many entrepreneurs looking to get in on the ground floor of what appears to be a rapidly growing industry.

Maryland officials defend the proposed fees while noting that the medical marijuana regulations are still being drafted and could change before being published. They say the rates are needed to finance the new program, which was designed by lawmakers to be self-supporting. And they note that there is great variability in how such programs have been set up and financed in 23 states and the District of Columbia.

The General Assembly first approved legalizing medical uses of marijuana in 2013, but limited it to academic medical centers, which showed no interest. Lawmakers revamped the program this year, authorizing licensed physicians to recommend medical marijuana, with …read more