MD: Rejected Medical Pot Firms On Shore Demand Answers

0
314

A radio industry executive. A pharmacy owner. A businessman who has traveled across the country to compete in CrossFit tournaments.

Meet the Lower Shore’s medical marijuana pioneers.

Three companies have secured a preliminary go-ahead from regulators to grow or process medicinal cannabis in the area. While they may seem to have little in common, there is this: All three are relative unknowns to local officials.

“I don’t have a clue who they are or where they are or even if they have a building located,” Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver said of the county’s lone approved applicant, the Annapolis-based AFS Maryland LLC, which is seeking to become a processor.

Meanwhile, at least two rejected Lower Shore applicants are demanding more answers and a fuller explanation about how the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission settled on its picks.

READ MORE: The state medical marijuana commission makes its picks

Jeff Siskind is a top investor in a CannaMed Pharmaceuticals, which is looking to grow and process medical marijuana at a former Hebron manufacturing plant. It bought the land and the building for nearly $1 million earlier this year and began hiring staff. It did not receive one of the prized approvals.

“We were the team that were much farther out than anyone else,” he said.

Siskind said he has filed a formal public records request to learn how his firm ultimately ranked. The commission reviewing the applications decided to move two lower-scoring growers up to the 14th and 15th positions to ensure more geographic diversity, according to The Washington Post.

Was CannaMed one of those two firms that got moved down? He doesn’t know. But he wants to find out.

“I find it shocking two groups were picked (for cultivation) in Dorchester County and nobody in Wicomico,” said Siskind, a businessman based in Florida. “I can speak for our entire team when I say we are devastated by the decision.”

A rejected grower applicant in Somerset County also felt slighted by the selections.

“Where are the scores of everybody? They have a spreadsheet. Why wouldn’t they list 145 scores and where everybody fell so you understand what it is?” asked Jason Walsh, founder and CEO of Wellness Farms. “It’s cheesy and it’s backroom old-time politics as usual. And it’s sad because the patients are going to deserve better.”

The commission, however, is downplaying the significance of the ranking formula.

“While we are aware there is a public interest in the rankings of the Grower and Processor applications, the rankings were merely used as an organizational tool,” Dr. Paul Davies, chairman of the commission, said in a statement.

Statewide, the selection process has been fraught with grumblings about politically connected companies winning approval and wholesale regions getting bypassed for business. Several media reports have connected state Del. Dan Morhaim (D-Baltimore County), one of industry’s leading legislative advocates, to a prospective grower and processor in Dorchester called Doctor’s Orders.

With scores of companies competing for 30 preliminary permits – 15 growers and 15 processors – some hard feelings were virtually assured.

But Walsh and Siskind have been left with more questions than answers.

“How is having multiple growers in one county considered geographic diversity?” Walsh asked.

In all, three counties saw two cultivation applicants get the green light: Dorchester, Frederick and Washington. Seven counties went without a grower or a processor, including Somerset.

Nothing precludes losing applicants from reaching out to the winners to form partnerships, so Siskind has been hard at work working the phones in recent days. What’s more, the state has left the door open to expanding the number of licenses if the first pool of suppliers can’t keep up with demand.

But Siskind said he hopes the commission will reconsider its decision and that people in Wicomico will rally behind his cause. A cultivation facility can employ 60-80 people while a processor tends to only have about 10, he said.

As for the winning applicants, the work is just beginning. They have exactly one year to complete the application process. Those steps include getting regulatory approvals, buying real estate, building facilities, installing equipment and hiring staff.

The state-approved medical marijuana businesses on the Lower Shore appear to be keeping a low profile. None of the representatives contacted by phone and email responded for this story.

  • AFS Maryland LLC got the nod to process marijuana in Wicomico County. Its address is listed in Annapolis, but its president, William H. Brothers, has business interests in Arizona, North Carolina and Florida. Those interests include a network of radio stations under Towers Investment Trust and a medical marijuana business in the Phoenix area.
  • Share Natural Rx LLC, a would-be Worcester grower, lists the Ocean Pines home of its president as its headquarters. Erick Bruder’s biggest internet footprint, though, stems from his participation in CrossFit tournaments. He also is listed as a principal for a professional services company known as Dutch Corp., according to state business records.
  • Blair Wellness Center LLC, which is seeking to process marijuana in Worcester, is owned by Matthew Blair, who also operates a pharmacy in the Baltimore area. The LLC’s listed road address portends a potentially bright future: “1818 Pot Spring Road.”

To be sure, there were several businesses with high-placed allies that didn’t make the commission’s cut, including at least one in Wicomico.

Shore Green Inc. had applied to grow marijuana. Its treasurer is William Hall, a Salisbury-based defense attorney and former Somerset County assistant state’s attorney. He declined to comment for this story.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Rejected Medical Pot Firms On Shore Demand Answers
Author: Jeremy Cox
Contact: (410) 749-7171
Photo Credit: AP
Website: Delmarva Now