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Maryland Court Grants Stay in Medical Marijuana Case

Annapolis, Maryland, USA skyline and State House.

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s highest court on Friday agreed to hear arguments from attorneys who represent finalists for licenses to grow medical cannabis. The attorneys say their clients should be allowed to intervene in a legal case that seeks to block a state commission from awarding any more licenses until a lawsuit is resolved.

Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera ordered a stay on proceedings in Baltimore City Circuit Court, where Judge Barry Williams was scheduled to hold a hearing to consider extending a temporary hold on awarding licenses that is set to expire Sunday. The stay from the Court of Appeals prevents Williams from extending his order from last week.

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“So effectively the effort to derail the medical marijuana program is on hold subject to further decisions of the Court of Appeals, and essentially the program continues unabated until that time,” said Alan Rifkin, an attorney for 13 of the 15 companies that are finalists to be licensed.

Alternative Medicine, a company that was not selected as a finalist, is suing the state over the licensing process. The company alleges the commission didn’t consider racial diversity of applicants as set in the law. Lawyers for the company asked Williams to block the commission from awarding any more licenses until the case is resolved.

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So far, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has only awarded one final license. ForwardGro, which is based in Stevensville, received the first license to grow marijuana last month. Some growers hope to have cannabis available for patients by the end of the summer.

Maryland’s medical marijuana rollout has been delayed by setbacks for more than four years. The state approved its first medical marijuana law in 2013. The effort stalled, however, because it required academic medical centers to run the programs, and none stepped forward. The law was changed in 2014 to allow doctors certified by a state commission to recommend cannabis for patients with debilitating, chronic or severe illnesses.