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Medical-marijuana panel delays vote on rules for Maryland; looks to adjust fees, add extracts

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ANNAPOLIS, Maryland — A medical-marijuana regulations panel in Maryland delayed a vote Tuesday in order to take a second look at fees for growers, dispensers and patients, which critics say are too high.

The commission, which has been criticized for taking too long to finalize regulations, also has added marijuana extracts to the regulations, so patients could ingest the drug without smoking, after receiving input from the public. Maryland passed legislation this year authorizing 15 licensed marijuana growers after a medical-marijuana law approved in 2013 stalled.

"I'm encouraged to hear that they are changing some of the fee structure because, for me, that fee structure was onerous and prohibitive, and would create another layer of the haves and the have-nots, and regular people would not be able to have access to medical marijuana, because your health insurance doesn't cover it," said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who is a leading advocate for the law. "So, I'm encouraged, but I'm concerned as well, because I haven't seen anything."

Fees for marijuana growers have been initially set at $250,000 every two years. The fee for dispensaries is $80,000 every two years. Qualifying patients would have to pay $100 for an identification card, plus the cost for marijuana.

Glenn also said she believed some fine-tuning to the law will be needed in the next legislative session.

"We're already thinking about what we need to do in January," Glenn said.

Dr. Paul Davies, who chairs the commission, said he is hopeful the board will be able to vote on the regulations, which now fill 98 pages, at its next meeting on Nov. 13. A revised version of the regulations that includes marijuana extracts is expected to be made public by the end of the week.

The panel had a Sept. 15 deadline to submit regulations to the state health secretary.

Advocates have criticized the delay.

"Every day that these regulations are delayed is another day that patients must suffer without relief," said Rachelle Young, an attorney with the Marijuana Policy Project.

The effort to make medical marijuana available to patients has had a difficult journey in Maryland. The law that stalled in 2013 required academic medical centers to run medical marijuana programs, and none stepped forward.

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