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State lawmakers are poised for an ending to the fighting over how much to expand the medical marijuana industry and who would get the new licenses.
A Senate committee voted Friday night to issue seven additional growing licenses in Maryland, two more than the House of Delegates preferred, bringing the maximum in the state from 15 to 22.
The vote in the Senate Finance Committee to issue seven additional growing licenses in Maryland also sets up a confrontation Monday, the General Assembly’s final day, over whether two companies that were highly ranked but denied initial marijuana growing licenses would be rewarded them by the legislature.
The Senate version of the bill would grant those companies licenses; the House version would not grant them. In addition the committee also agreed to a provision suggested by the lobbyist representing companies that secured preliminary cannabis licenses. It would allow them to use pesticides on weed plants in certain limited circumstances for growing them.
Both chambers agreed that the industry needed an expansion and infusion of minority-owned firms in it to also sell legal weed. The initial round of preliminary licenses issued last fall did not take into account minority ownership, despite the law having required them to do so.
The medical marijuana licensing process spawned at least two lawsuits, including one from companies who were bumped off the list of preliminary license winners in order to achieve more geographic diversity among growers in the project. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, a Democrat, has pushed to give those companies additional licenses to end their lawsuit immediately.
Lawmakers in both chambers also agreed to reconstruct the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission that set up the nascent industry, wrote regulations to govern it and endured harsh public criticism over how it issued licenses.
The Maryland medical cannabis commission has said it is close to granting final medical marijuana licenses to some growers and expects the drug to be ready for patients by the end of the this summer.
The legislature has until midnight Monday to forge a compromise on whether to hand out the additional, lucrative legal licenses to the seven business to grow medical weed.