Maryland's State House in Annapolis.

Ken Lund

Maryland MMJ Commissioner Who Disapproved of Reshuffling Replaced

A Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission member has not been reappointed by Gov. Larry Hogan after her term expired, according to a Baltimore Sun report. Deborah R. Miran cast the one dissenting vote against the commission’s decision to deny grower licenses to two high-rated applicants and give them to lower-ranked companies.

Miran was an appointee of former Gov. Martin O’Malley, and the only person on the panel to vote against the move to reshuffle the licensees, which has sparked lawsuits threatening to derail the licensing process in the state.   

According to Doug Mayer, spokesperson for the Republican governor, her dissenting vote had no bearing on Hogan’s decision to replace her.

“This office wasn’t even remotely aware of how the vote took place,” Mayer said in the report.

The new appointee, Saundra Washington, was chosen after the governor’s meeting with members of the Black Legislative Caucus. The caucus has threatened to introduce emergency legislation to halt the licensing program due to the lack of minority-run businesses approved for the lucrative licenses. Washington is executive director of Lifestyles Foundation of Maryland Inc., a nonprofit that helps people in need with clothing, shelter and food.

The companies initially approved for state licenses were ranked by Townsend University researchers. Miran was a member of the subcommittee that reversed an earlier decision, by a 4-1 vote, to award the licenses to the companies as ranked by the university. The commissioners say that the change was made due to the “geographic diversity” requirements of the law.

However, in their reshuffling the commission approved a license for Holistic Industries – which counts the son-in-law of top Annapolis lobbyist, Gerard Evans, among its equity investors. Holistic paid Evans $90,000 from November 2015 through April 2016, but he maintains his work for the company had nothing to do with their approval.

The appointment of Washington is, perhaps, a sign that the commission plans on moving forward despite the lawsuits and threats to delay the program by the caucus. Commission spokeswoman Vanessa Hold said the body is “wary of any additional delays in making the medicine available to patients” and that if the licensing process was restarted it could add another year or two to getting products to market.  

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