Medical marijuana is now available in Maryland, more than four years after the General Assembly passed a law legalizing it.
Standing up the industry — with growers, processors, dispensaries and doctors — took longer than expected. The law needed to be tweaked, rules needed to be written and legal battles needed to be fought over who won licenses.
Here’s what prospective users need to know about medical marijuana.
State law says the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission “is encouraged to approve” medical marijuana recommendations for:Patients with chronic or debilitating diseases or medical conditions who have been admitted to hospice or are receiving palliative care;What’s the process to get a written certification for medical marijuana?
Patients with a chronic or debilitating disease whose symptoms include (or for which the treatment produces side effects that include) cachexia, anorexia, or wasting syndrome; severe or chronic pain; severe nausea; seizures; or severe or persistent muscle spasms; and
Patients who are diagnosed with any condition that is severe, for which other medical treatments have been ineffective, and for which the symptoms “reasonably can be expected to be relieved” by the medical use of marijuana.
The commission specifically lists glaucoma and post-traumatic stress disorder as qualifying conditions.
Consumers first must register online as a patient with the commission. In addition to Maryland residents, non-Maryland residents who are in the state receiving medical treatment are eligible to register.
Patients must submit an electronic copy of a government-issued photo identification (driver’s license, passport or military ID), proof of address, a clear recent photo and the last four numbers of their Social Security number. More information about the process is available on the commission’s website.
For patients under age 18, a parent or legal guardian age 21 or older must register with the commission as a caregiver before registering the patient.
After registering, patients must obtain a written certification (recommendation) from a provider registered with the commission. The provider will need the patient’s commission-issued Patient ID number to issue the certification through the commission’s secure online application. If a certification is not used to purchase medical cannabis within 120 days, it becomes null and void.
Patients also can purchase ID cards for $50 from the commission after receiving a written certification. ID cards are not required to buy medical marijuana.
More than 17,000 consumers in Maryland have registered for medical marijuana.
Do I need to go to a special doctor to get one?
Like patients seeking medical marijuana, doctors and other medical providers recommending medical cannabis to patients must be registered with the commission.
More than 500 providers — including doctors, nurses and dentists — have signed on to the program, according to recent data from the commission.
MedChi compiled a list of member doctors by region who are licensed by the Board of Physicians, licensed by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission and who asked to be listed. MarijuanaDoctors.com also provides a list of verified medical marijuana doctors in the state.
Can doctors prescribe medical marijuana?
No, prescribing medical cannabis is illegal under federal law. Doctors and other healthcare providers can only recommend or issue written certifications for medical marijuana.
Where can I get it?
Five of the state’s 10 licensed dispensaries are currently open in the state, and many have limited supplies. Here’s a map.
Others are expected to open in the coming weeks, and 12 more were recently approved.
And more are in planning and development, but by law there can be no more than two dispensaries in each of the state’s 47 legislative districts (not including licensed growers, who may also hold dispensary licenses).
Are different strains or products available at different dispensaries?
Yes. Many dispensaries offer different strains of dried marijuana with different properties designed to help treat various ailments. In addition to the dried plant, some dispensaries offer liquids that can be vaporized, oils, concentrates, topical ointments, wax, pills and accessories. Some extracts can be added to foods at home, but edible marijuana products are not available from Maryland dispensaries.
How much does it cost?
The price varies. At Kannavis, a dispensary in Ijamsville, dried product sells for about $50 to $60 per eighth-ounce, or $100 to $112 per quarter-ounce. A half-gram vape cartridge of extract from the shop costs $90. Some locations have chosen to go cashless.
Will insurance pay for it?
Health insurance companies are not required to cover medical cannabis costs, but private health insurers can develop policies that will cover medical cannabis.
Kaiser Permanente of the Mid-Atlantic States does not cover medical marijuana, according to a spokesman. Coverage information for UnitedHealthcare and CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield was not immediately available.
The federal government still classifies pot as an illegal drug. What impact does that have here?
Customers cannot travel to other states with medical marijuana from Maryland. The Transportation Security Administration does not screen for marijuana, but it likely will be confiscated if found during a search.
Has the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved medical marijuana?
No, the FDA has not approved any product containing or derived from marijuana.
Can patients or doctors grow their own medical marijuana?
How much medical marijuana can I possess at one time?
Patients can carry up to 120 grams (about four ounces) unless a physician determines a patient needs more. In extract forms, customers are allowed to obtain up to 36 grams of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) per month.
I have a certification for medical marijuana. Can I give my medical marijuana to someone else?
What happens if I am stopped by law enforcement and carrying medical marijuana?
Patients do not have to consent to a search, nor do they have to disclose that they possess medical marijuana. If medical cannabis is found during a search, the patient should present their patient ID card or direct law enforcement officials to the marijuana commission’s database.
Driving under the influence of marijuana is still a crime.
What about workplace drug tests?
Maryland law does not prevent employers from testing for marijuana use, and it does not protect employees who test positive for any reason.
Is there a chance recreational marijuana use could be legalized in Maryland?
Several Democratic state lawmakers introduced a bill during the 2017 General Assembly session to hold a statewide referendum on whether to legalize recreational marijuana use in the state, while regulating and taxing it. The bill didn’t get much traction, but the issue isn't going away. Several states that legalized its recreational use are seeing significant revenue from marijuana sales.
What’s next for medical marijuana?
Baltimore City Circuit Judge Barry Williams said a trial should determine whether state regulators acted outside the law when they chose which companies won lucrative licenses to grow the drug. A trial date has not yet been set.
Meanwhile, lawmakers are expected to address concerns about the lack of minority ownership among the companies that won licenses, which could mean an increase in the number of authorized growers and/or processors. From a consumer’s prospective, that eventually could lead to greater supply of the drug and potentially lower costs.
Regardless, the current medical marijuana law calls for the cannabis commission to evaluate whether there are enough growers in the state to meet demand and to issue however many licenses are necessary after June 1, 2018.