Maryland lawmakers need to reexamine current cannabis sales guidelines

Maryland lawmakers are in the process of developing new guidelines for recreational cannabis sales.

I believe the legislators need to reexamine their current proposals to make the industry more fair for all licensees.

Cannabis, in many ways, has been legal in Maryland ever since Maryland opened the medical dispensaries years ago. It takes little effort to get a medical card. One does not need to actually see a doctor. Friends and family get their weed from folks that have a medical card. That is why the state did $600 million in 2021(amongst 102 dispensaries) and the Maryland Cannabis Commission is well aware of this dynamic. Sales dropped off last year and I’m not as sure as the state that there is more room for growth. If you want weed, you can get it legally and most people have done so already.

Few, if any, medical card holders are going to buy retail recreational weed because it will cost more. The taxes will start at 6% and will ultimately increase to 10%. Medical cannabis has no additional tax. Are folks going to let their medical card expire so they can spend more money on retail cannabis? Are people going to stop buying medical weed for their family and friends?

The immediate effect of this bill will be to create a system where medical dispensaries have a major advantage because all of their prices will be 6% to 10% less than recreational weed. The legislation will create an unequal two-tiered system of winners and losers. Medical will grow, retail may have an initial burst of novelty, then recede. Medical dispensaries will dominate the market because they will always have a price advantage which only gets better as the tax on recreational increases.

I suggest that legislators consider two less complicated options rather than creating a system that will be inherently unfair.

One option is to make all dispensaries recreational. They are in reality. Do away with medical cannabis which was always a ruse to get to recreational. Why carry on the ruse? People buy weed to get high but the state forces thousands of Marylanders to lie to get a medical card. The medical value of weed is a matter of conjecture, at best.

Option two is that legislators consider that everyone that gets a license should be able to sell both, medical and recreational cannabis. We do not need to copy the mistakes from other states. There would be a price for medical and a price for recreational on every item. Have a medical card, get the medical price. No card, pay recreational prices.  That would make all dispensaries equal. They will all have the same products anyway, all grown and processed in state.

The lawmakers are justifiably attempting to make this process more fair than the initial allotment of medical licenses which were not distributed equitably.

I urge legislators to create a system that is fair to all new cannabis licensees, not just the 102 existing dispensaries.