Green Thumb Industries-Maryland (GTI) has filed a lawsuit against the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission after it rejected their application for a cultivation license. GTI claims that the Commission violated its own rules when it granted licenses to growers that were ranked lower than GTI by analysts. The Maryland medical marijuana industry has been already delayed since becoming legal 3 years ago in 2013. The state was overwhelmed by applicants who wanted licenses to partake in the budding industry and the process was delayed for many months as a result.
The Nature of the Dispute
The Commission hired Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute to analyze the applications based on merit, using a “double blind” process where analysts would not know the identities of the applicants. This system was created in order to ensure fairness and the merit of the companies selected. The Commission promised to give licenses to the top 15 companies that were ranked. GTI was number 12 and Maryland Cultivation and Processing LLC came in at number 8. Yet, these two companies were dropped in favor of 2 companies that were ranked at number 20 and number 21.
Discrepancies in the Maryland Medical Marijuana License Application
The reason given for the sudden change was that these companies are located in a regional area that were not represented. However, this doesn’t quite make sense as an adequate reason. First of all, the Commission asked 2 of the other companies who were awarded licenses to move their location in order to represent other locations. Those companies moved and the situation was remedied. The Commission did not offer this option to GTI or Maryland Cultivation who would have both happily changed locations. Secondly, the Commission’s rules state that they are not allowed to pass out licenses based on location.
GTI is an offshoot of a Chicago based company that has affiliates in Illinois, Massachusetts and Nevada. The GTI team includes former U.S. Capital Police Chief and U.S. Senate Sergeant Arms, Terrance W. Gainer and marijuana advocate and former lineman for the Baltimore Ravens, Eugene Monroe.
A “Corrupted” System
Maryland Cultivation has the option to also file a suit or join GTI’s suit. The lead partner for Maryland Cultivation said that the process had been “corrupted” and he wants to give the Commission a chance to “clean up their own mess” before moving forward with a suit. His concern is that the process has already been excessively delayed. However, if they don’t resolve the situation he will have to take action, stating “better it be delayed than corrupted.”
Allegations of Racism
A further complication has also emerged as no minorities were awarded licenses. The Maryland medical marijuana industry licenses have been distributed exclusively to white men. African American lawmakers have taken up great issue with this, promising to stop the processes for distributing licenses until minority-owned businesses are given their share of the market.
Even before the lawsuit was filed and the racial issues emerged, the Commission stated that they didn’t believe Maryland medical marijuana would be available until the summer of 2017. With these new issues of corruption delaying the process further it is unclear when the industry will be up and running.