The state capitol building in Annapolis, Maryland.


Future Dispensary Owners Navigate Bumpy Road to Medical Marijuana in Maryland

It’s been a long and arduous journey for Maryland medical marijuana dispensary applicant Mary Pat Hoffman, but her efforts are paying off. The career pharmacist is now adding Clinical Director of Peninsula Alternative Health to her resume, as her company was recently awarded a preliminary dispensary license in Maryland’s District 37.

“We knew very little going into the application process, and we don’t know much more now,” Hoffman told Ganjapreneur.

She’s ready for the challenge ahead, but she’s first to criticize the commission for its lack of communication. “It’s supposed to be for medical professionals, and they expect us to be professional – yet their communication is limited,” she said.

Held hostage to their email the day of the announcement, the partners of Peninsula Alternative Health were continuously refreshing their inboxes in hope of good news.  

They were expecting a bit of a heads up — as the commission had said that applicants of preliminary licenses would be notified before the results were posted publicly — but, “It literally was an email to us at the end of the day, and not even ten minutes later it was on their website,” Hoffman said. “This whole thing has been very vague.”

Looking ahead

It’s been more than three years since the initial measure was approved to legalize medical cannabis in the East Coast state. Since then, the Maryland Cannabis Commission said their process has been riddled with delays; including an unexpectedly large number of applications and a lot of groundwork in uncharted territory. Additionally, the licensing process for medical marijuana cultivators in the state was ripe with its own series of scandals, including lawsuits from several cultivator applicants and accusations from the Black Legislative Caucus that the Commission ignored rules regarding racial diversity in distributing the licenses.

“We don’t know when cultivators are planting their first seeds, or even where they’re getting them because it’s illegal to bring it across states lines,” Hoffman points out.

Mary Pat Hoffman (right) with dispensary partner Anthony Darby (left) at the Capitol Canna Show in Washington DC.
Mary Pat Hoffman (right) with dispensary partner Anthony Darby (left) at the Capitol Canna Show in Washington DC.

Groundwork remains

Hoffman and their license in Western Salisbury don’t have to worry about being voted out by the municipality, like the chaos going on in Ohio.

Early on in the process, a state judge ruled in favor of authorized entities. Dispensaries operating within the law won’t be “denied any right or privilege, for the medical use of cannabis,” reads the letter by The Honorable Robert A. Zirkin.

However, hesitant to make any moves until they had their license in hand, Hoffman and her partners laid low until the announcement. “There’s only so much you can plan for,” she said.

The 102 dispensary licensees must still await inspection and approval from state officials.  

Educating patients and students

For the past year or so, Hoffman’s two time-consuming projects have involved both completing the application and crafting a syllabus for her first university cannabis class. She’ll be teaching the first cannabis elective at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore’s Pharmacy School. In return, the dispensary will serve as a preceptor school for their students.

She also wants to teach patients about their medicine. Her company’s mission is to build a medical cannabis dispensary with a judgement-free zone, where patients can feel comfortable asking questions.

“It’ll be a place where patients can talk about their hopes and goals,” Hoffman promised. “It’s not going to be a ‘pot shop’, rather, a place for educating patients.”

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