Maryland’s licensed marijuana growing companies announced Thursday that they settled the lawsuit that had threatened to upend the state’s new medical marijuana industry.
The settlement terms were not disclosed, but the deal ends a 16-month legal action that sought to throw out all the state licenses to grow medical marijuana and start the application process anew.
Alternative Medicine Maryland filed the lawsuit in 2016 against state regulators. It argued the state illegally ignored racial diversity when picking growers. None of the 15 companies selected to grow the drug were led by African-Americans, despite a state law that required regulators to “actively seek” racial diversity.
Alternative Medicine Maryland, led by New York Dr. Greg Daniels, sought to get the entire application process thrown out. At the same time, state lawmakers began working on plans to expand the industry to award five new growing licenses to companies with minority leadership.
The companies that won licenses to grow the drug joined the suit as defendants in order to protect their business interests. On Thursday, a trade group that represents them announced the lawsuit had been settled and withdrawn.
A lawyer for Alternative Medicine Maryland said the firm will pursue one of the new licenses the General Assembly may create this year.
Jake Van Wingerden, owner of SunMed Growers and chairman of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association, praised the resolution and said it provides stability to the medical marijuana market, which has been beset by controversy and delays.
“On behalf of the tens of thousands of patients in Maryland who have waited long enough for medical cannabis, we are pleased to announce that a settlement with AMM has been reached,” Van Wingerden said in a statement. “This development will finally allow Maryland’s medical cannabis program to move forward without the uncertainties of this litigation and costly legal proceedings, allowing licensed growers to meet the health needs of Maryland patients.”
John Pica, a lawyer and lobbyist for AMM, said the settlement gives the company the ability to focus on passing legislation to expand the industry and competing for a new license.