Maryland Could Start Adult-Use Cannabis Sales by July Under New Bill

Lawmakers hope to head off a massive gray market by moving quickly.

The start date for Maryland’s upcoming adult-use cannabis market could be as soon as July 1, under the terms of a new legislative bill introduced this week by state lawmakers.

Though some industry observers had expected the market launch to take several years following the ballot measure victory in November, lawmakers said they’re feeling pressure to get the recreational market stood up as soon as possession becomes legal in July in order to avoid a massive gray market, WYPR News reported.

“We’ve seen what’s happened in places like New York where there are over 1,400 unlicensed dispensaries,” State Sen. President Bill Ferguson told WYPR News. “The idea of having a thoughtful marketplace has really evaporated in New York because there’s been such a delay in doing the legal licensing.”

Ferguson, one of the backers of the new Maryland bill, said he hopes it will turn into a “national model.”

Senate Bill 516 was introduced by Democratic Sens. Brian Feldman and Antonio Hayes, and Democrats control both chambers of the legislature and the governor’s mansion, which means that if the party can come to an agreement on how the industry should be structured, there’s no reason a bill to implement recreational sales couldn’t get passed quickly this year.

SB 516 allows for 300 retailers, 100 processors, 75 growers, an undetermined number of “micro-licenses,” and 15 permits for consumption lounges, WYPR News reported. The bill would tax recreational cannabis at 6%.

The bill also creates a new Office of Social Equity to help ensure that entrepreneurs of color get a solid stake in the new industry.

Existing medical marijuana companies would be allowed to transition directly into recreational sales as long as they pay a fee of between $100,000 and $2.5 million, depending on revenue levels, WYPR reported.

One market estimate shared with lawmakers is that Maryland recreational sales could hit $240 million a month “pretty rapidly” after launching, said Michael Sofis, director of research at Cannabis Public Policy Consulting.

John Schroyer

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