Judge green-lights hemp sales in Maryland, for now, as business owners open doors again

Judge green-lights hemp sales in Maryland, for now, as business owners open doors again

Hemp Retailers in Maryland Permitted to Resume Sales After Temporary Ban on THC Products.

Hemp retailers across Maryland have been given the green-light to open their doors and start selling products once again, after a judge in Western Maryland granted a motion to temporarily stop the enforcement of the ban.

When the General Assembly created the legislation setting up the state’s recreational cannabis framework in 2023, it included language capping levels of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, included in hemp-derived products, like CBD oil or Delta-8. Delta-8 is a strain of THC that’s different than the type of THC that’s included in traditional cannabis products.

Attempts during the legislative session were made to create a carveout for the hemp industry to allow businesses to continue selling their products. Another amendment floated during the session included creating new testing and regulation for hemp products; both plans failed to be included in the final law passed by lawmakers.

Hemp business owners, like Nicholas Patrick, were told their products could no longer be sold starting July 1, when the regulations took effect. That left Patrick packing up two of his three stores in the area, and him wondering what his financial future looked like without the ability to sell the hemp products.

Patrick was able to get out of two of his leases for his stores and he turned the third location, in Glen Burnie, into a vape and smoke shop.

“It wasn’t really doing well; it’s a super saturated industry,” Patrick said. “I was inches away from bankruptcy; my wife and I were researching bankruptcy lawyers and what were the criteria you would have to meet to be able to file because we were in a really bad place.”

But, after the Maryland Hemp Coalition sued Gov. Wes Moore over the regulations, Judge Brett Wilson granted a preliminary injunction motion after hearing testimony. In the order, Judge Wilson said the cannabis regulations “monopoly that unfairly excludes many from their right to continue, or enter, profession of their choosing, all to the detriment of the public.”

“It’s a big day for the hemp industry and the greater cannabis industry in general,” Patrick said reacting to the news of the preliminary injunction. “We’re really excited to get back to our roots, which is educating people about the benefits of hemp and teaching people how these products work.”

The current licensing process in Maryland is a lottery; round 1 applicants must qualify as social equity applicants, which according to the state, is defined as an applicant with at least 65% ownership and control held by at least one person who:

  • Has lived in a disproportional impacted area for at least five of the last decade
  • Attended a public school in a disproportionately impacted area for at least five years, OR
  • Attended, for at least two years, a 4-year higher education institution in Maryland where at least 40% of the people attending the institution are eligible for a Pell grant.

Maryland defines an area as disproportionately impacted by an area that had above 150% of the state’s 10-year average for cannabis possession charges. A map of the zip codes that qualify has yet to be provided by the state.

“If they really cared about social equity, then they would have given people who have previous cannabis charges first crack at this,” Patrick said.

The Maryland Cannabis Administration, previously known as the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, is an independent government agency that oversees the licensing, registration, inspection and testing measures related to the state’s adult-use cannabis industry.

“The Administration was disappointed to learn of the preliminary decision in Washington County Circuit Court allowing for the continued sale of unregulated, untested, and intoxicating hemp-derived products,” the MCA said via statement regarding Judge Wilson’s order. “However, the decision does not enjoin the licensing process and we remain committed to moving forward with the transformative application round exclusive to social equity applicants.”

Hemp products became legal through the 2018 federal Farm Bill. Since then, hemp business owners like Patrick, Levi Sellers who owns South Mountain Microfarm, and Derek Spruill, another business owner in Maryland, said they have been pushing for regulation.

Spruill opened Cherry Blossom Hemp right before the pandemic began; his online retail option specializes in full-spectrum hemp products. He said he sells gummies, tinctures, lotions, pet products, and more and with the new regulations set to begin, he said he’s been asking for the hemp industry to be part of the conversation.

“We’re asking to be taxed, to be regulated. Regulate us, bring us into the fold,” he said. “Hemp is just high in CBD and low in THC, marijuana is high in THC and low in CBD.”

I could throw ice at you I could throw water at you and I could throw snow at you. They will feel differently when they hit you, but at the end of the day, they are all water, they are all the same thing, they are just in a different chemical form, Spruill said describing the difference between Delta-8, Delta-9 and other hemp-derived products.

FOX45 News previously spoke with Sellers about the future of his hemp farm before the law passed the General Assembly and before Gov. Moore signed the plan into law.

“We see the small businesses and hemp industry stakeholders, they got left behind during the legislative session,” Sellers said. “We are investigating options to move our facilities out of stateto move as well as could potentially lose the whole farm in the process.”

Patrick, who has a book full of testing results for all the products in his store before the regulations took effect on July 1, said lawmakers are the ones who dropped the ball on this plan since some within the hemp industry have been asking for regulations for years.

“We’ve been trying to address them in 2019. They said no, we don’t want to regulate you, we would rather erase you,” Patrick previously said.

Now, Patrick said the state has filed intentions to appeal Judge Wilson’s opinion. But, he said, he hopes the lawsuit sets a precedent and opens the door for the hemp and cannabis industries to operate simultaneously.

“We’re tired of the cannabis industry beating us down and looking to us as some sort of ridiculous problem that they have to solve when, really, they should be working with us, we should be collaborating to push this industry forward and we are hoping through this lawsuit to establish that,” Patrick said.

A spokesperson for Gov. Moore referred FOX45 News back to the statement from the Cannabis Administration when questioned about the preliminary injunction.

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Region: Maryland

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