State Roundup, August 16, 2016

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Marijuana plants by Alexandra MOss on FlickrPRELIMINARY RX POT LICENSEES: The state has awarded preliminary licenses to more than 20 companies to grow and process marijuana in Maryland, a major step forward in the effort to make medical cannabis available to patients in Maryland, reports Pamela Wood for the Sun. Several of the winning applicants have political connections.

  • State officials received an unexpectedly large number of applications from entrepreneurs who want to jump into the legal marijuana business. Maryland, which along with 24 states and the District has legalized the medical use of the drug, is considered a lucrative area of opportunity because it has few restrictions on who can buy the drug and limits how many businesses can participate, Aaron Gregg and Fenit Nirappil reports in the Post. Patients probably will not be able to obtain medical marijuana until summer 2017 because dispensaries have not yet been approved.
  • Amanda Yeager of the Annapolis Capital writes that Forward Gro LLC was one of 30 successful applicants selected for a preliminary license to grow or process pot. Of that number, 15 were growing licenses and 15 were for processing. The proposed growing operation, which counts former Anne Arundel County Sheriff George Johnson among its advisors and Annapolis resident and medical marijuana advocate Gail Rand as its chief financial officer, was the only applicant to be selected from the county.
  • State officials granted a license to grow and process marijuana in Carroll County to Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness LLC, according to the Carroll County Times.
  • Three medical cannabis companies in Frederick County have received the green light to continue in the state’s licensing process for marijuana growers and processors, writes Danielle Gaines in the Frederick News-Post. Green Leaf Medical LLC and HMS Health LLC got initial approval for grower licenses in Frederick County. And Pro Green Medical LLC was tentatively selected for a processing license in Frederick County.
  • Two companies with proposals in Washington County are among the successful applicants that have received initial approval to grow medical marijuana in Maryland, writes CJ Lovelace in the Hagerstown Herald Mail. Harvest of Maryland LLC, which is planning an operation in Hancock, was among the winners for cultivation licenses. And Kind Therapeutics USA LLC received initial approval for grower and processor licenses in the county.
  • Three medical marijuana firms have received preliminary approval to do business on the Lower Shore, writes Jeremy Cox for the Salisbury Daily Times. The list includes two businesses in Worcester County: the grower Shore Natural Rx LLC and the processor Blair Wellness Center LLC. Wicomico County was approved for one business, a processor called AFS Maryland LLC.
  • Five Baltimore-area companies were chosen, writes Tina Reed in the Baltimore Business Journal. This is just the first stage of the process. Next, the 15 growers and 15 processors must pass comprehensive financial and background checks to receive a license. The potential licensees will also have a year to complete regulatory requirements, raise capital, acquire real estate, secure zoning approvals and finish facility construction, equipment installation and staff hiring and training.
  • For a city accustomed to feeling forgotten, it seems Cumberland will have to suffer being denied an economic opportunity once more. Hopes to bring a medical cannabis growing operation to the former Kelly-Springfield Tire Co. facility went “up in smoke” Monday when the commission overseeing the rollout of the industry chose not to award Peak Harvest Health LLC a stage one license to operate in Cumberland, Greg Larry reports in Cumberland Times News
  • Green is in Cecil County’s future after a state commission pre-approved a license Monday for a medical marijuana grow operation to be based in Warwick. Jacob Owens of the Cecil Whig reports that SunMed Growers LLC was one of just 15 licensees selected by the commission. SunMed is led by Jacob Van Wingerden, president of Tidal Creek Growers, an Earleville plant production company that sells specialty annual potted plants wholesale to Mid-Atlantic garden retailers.

COURT LOOKS AT VOTING MAPS: David Savage of the Sun reports that a crop of legal challenges to contorted legislative districts in states like Maryland will soon give the Supreme Court its best opportunity in years to consider whether maps drawn for partisan advantage deprive voters of an equal voice in elections. Good-government groups believe the justices are poised to take up redistricting cases from North Carolina or Wisconsin — or both — in the next term. The plaintiffs are challenging the legality of one party drawing an electoral map that all but guarantees its candidates will win nearly all the seats.

TRANSPORTATION FUNDING TALK: Lawmakers and state and county officials are likely to have a lot to talk about when it comes to how a new transportation funding law is being implemented, reports Bryan Sears for the Daily Record. The topic is certain to come up as county leaders descend on the Eastern Shore Wednesday for the  start of the Maryland Association of Counties summer conference, particularly now that transportation officials and an attorney for the legislature differ on how and when a new project scoring system is to be used.

BPD & SEXUAL ASSAULT INVESTIGATIONS: The Sun editorial board looks at the DOJ report on the Baltimore Police Department’s handling of rape cases, writing that in Baltimore, fewer than a quarter of the cases of alleged sexual assault investigated by police result in the arrest of a suspect. That’s about half the national average, according to last week’s report on city police by the Department of Justice. What could explain that disparity? Is it that women in Baltimore are prone to lying about being assaulted? That cases here are for some reason more difficult to solve? Or is it that six years after the department’s utter failure to properly investigate sexual assaults was exposed by The Sun’s Justin Fenton, not nearly enough has changed? There’s plenty of reason to conclude it’s the latter.

DOJ FINDINGS IN BLACK, WHITE & ORANGE: Baltimore Brew offers a graphics-rich explanation of the DOJ findings.

CITY $15 WAGE ON HOLD: Luke Broadwater reports in the Sun that supporters of a proposal to raise Baltimore’s minimum wage to $15 an hour failed to muster the votes for passage Monday night, instead sending the bill back to committee and an uncertain future. Chief sponsor Mary Pat Clarke pledged to continue to look for the additional vote needed to pass the measure, even if that meant waiting until a new council takes office after the November election.