Baltimore judge to hold hearing on medical marijuana lawsuit

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Maryland's highest court has intervened in a legal case that could have led to further delays in the state's medical marijuana program.

Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera ordered a stay on proceedings in Baltimore City Circuit Court, where Judge Barry Williams was scheduled to hold a hearing to consider extending a temporary hold on awarding licenses that is set to expire Sunday.

But Williams abruptly stopped the hearing as soon as it began, citing an order from the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Alan Rifkin, an attorney representing companies that were named as finalists, says his clients asked the Court of Appeals to intervene, so his clients could have their interests heard in the case.

At issue is whether the embattled Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission should be allowed to grant final licenses to medical marijuana firms before the court rules on whether those companies were picked in a fair process.

Alternative Medicine Maryland, which is led by an African-American doctor from NY and was not picked as a victor, said the commission illegally disregarded a provision in state law instructing it to "actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic and geographic diversity when licensing medical cannabis growers". ForwardGro, which is based in Stevensville, received the first license to grow marijuana last month.

One of the more than 130 companies that applied but was not among the 15 selected to grow the drug has sued the state, alleging the commission broke the law by not considering racial diversity when selecting growers for preliminary licenses. Some growers hope to have cannabis available for patients by the end of the summer. The effort stalled, however, because it required academic medical centers to run the programs, and none stepped forward.