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Medical Cannabis in Maryland - What Health Care Providers Need to Know: A Legislative Update

June 2019

By: Lauren Ellison

The Maryland General Assembly recently wrapped up its legislative session having made a number of changes impacting Maryland’s medical marijuana industry.  Although we recently published the article, Medical Marijuana Laws in the Mid-Atlantic – What Health Care Providers Need to Know, providing an overview of medical marijuana laws in Maryland, Governor Hogan has since signed Emergency House Bill 17, effective May 13, 2019, expanding the uses for medical cannabis in Maryland.  House Bill 17 contains important changes that may impact health care providers and institutions, as well as growers, processers, and dispensaries.

Institutions of higher education, related medical facilities, and affiliated biomedical research firms that wish to purchase medical cannabis for the purpose of conducting bona fide research projects related to its medical uses, properties, or composition are now permitted to select an employee or agent to be their Academic Research Representative.  That employee or agent, who will be designated an Academic Research Representative (“Representative”) will have to register with the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission (the “Commission”).  Once registered, the Representative may purchase medical cannabis from a licensed dispensary.  The registration process requires the institution conducting the research project to disclose the name of the primary researcher, the expected duration of the research, and the primary objectives of the research.  The legislature added a layer of protection for Representatives purchasing cannabis products from licensed dispensaries.  State law protects Representatives from being penalized or arrested for acquiring, possessing, or dispensing cannabis products, or related supplies and materials used in the product. 

House Bill 17 also introduces advertising requirements.  All advertisements for medical cannabis, medical cannabis products, edible cannabis products, or medical cannabis-related services that make therapeutic or medical claims must be supported by substantial clinical evidence or data, and include information regarding side effects.  All advertising must also include a statement that the product is for use only by a qualifying patient.  If growers, processors, dispensaries, independent testing laboratories, third party vendors, or Certifying Providers (e.g. licensed physicians, dentists, podiatrists, nurse practitioners, or midwives), who are in good standing with their relevant licensing boards, have a State controlled dangerous substances registration and are registered with the Commission to make medical cannabis available to patients,  wish to advertise, they should ensure that statements made are not false or misleading in any material way and do not contain representations that promote recreational use, target minors, display use of cannabis, encourage use for intoxication purposes, or display obscenities.  Websites owned, managed, or operated by a Certifying Provider, dispensary, grower, or processor should contain age-certifying mechanisms that verify users are at least 18 years of age. Advertisements utilized on social media or a mobile application must also include a notification that a person must be 18 years or older to view the content, and that medical cannabis is for use by certified patients.

Nestled within the bill are also new exceptions for edible cannabis products.  Maryland previously prohibited edible cannabis products in all forms.  Now, the Commission will permit licensed dispensaries or Dispensary Agents (e.g. an owner, member, employee, volunteer, officer, or director), to acquire, possess, transfer, transport, sell, distribute, or dispense edible cannabis products to qualifying patients, caregivers, or Representatives.  Edible cannabis products include products intended for oral ingestion that dissolve or disintegrate.  Lawmakers expressly excluded concentrates and infused products such as oils, waxes, ointments, salves, tinctures, capsules, suppositories, dermal patches, and cartridges from the list of permissible edible cannabis products and may not be dispensed at this time.

Another notable change impacts licensees who intend to sell or transfer their license.  Now, if growers, processors, or dispensaries intend to sell or transfer the ownership of the license to a third party, the licensee who intends to sell or transfer the license must be physically and actively engaged in the cultivation, processing, or dispensing of medical cannabis for at least three years preceding the sale or transfer, instead of the previous requirement of two years.

It is expected that the Commission will introduce regulations to administer House Bill 17.

For more information about medical marijuana laws and regulations in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia, contact Gregory M. Garrett, Franklin M. Lee, Lauren S. Ellison, or any member of the Tydings health care practice.

This information has been prepared by Tydings for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.

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