The Court of Appeals has denied a motion to continue a Baltimore City Circuit Court’s temporary restraining order that barred the state from issuing additional growing licenses.
The order, late Friday morning, appears to be an initial victory for an association of growers and processors who are expected to seek final approval for their own licenses before Aug. 15. The order, however, isn’t the final word for Alternative Medicine Maryland, LLC, which was seeking to continue the restraining order issued by Judge Barry Williams pending a further order by the state’s highest court.
Brian S. Brown, of Brown & Barron LLC, who represents Alternative Medicine Maryland, said the order stretches out the case but doesn’t damage his client’s argument.
“We remain fully confident that we will succeed on the merits whether the intervenor is allowed to participate or not,” said Brown.
The court, in dissolving the Williams’ temporary restraining order, has opened the door for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to resume granting final licenses to 14 growers who received preliminary approval last August.
Those companies are expected to seek final approvals over the summer before the Aug. 15 deadline.
The state has already issued one license, to ForwardGro, a Stevensonville-based company. Williams has asked that ForwardGro participate in the hearing on an injunction that was scheduled for last week as it might have resulted in an order for them to cease operations.
Alternative Medicine Maryland filed a motion for an emergency temporary restraining in May in order to prevent the commission from issuing any licenses to 15 companies that were awarded preliminary approval last year until a judge can determine whether the state panel acted appropriately in making its selections.
Alternative Medicine Maryland is one of three companies suing the state commission, citing failings of the commission. Lawyers for the applicant argue that the commission failed to take into account racial and ethnic diversity in awarding the growing licenses.
Alternative Medicine Maryland is a minority-led company. None of the 15 licenses that were preliminarily approved went to companies with minority ownership.
The lack of minority participation within the industry has been criticized by the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus and was the subject of failed legislation during the 2017 session. Lawmakers are pressing for a special session this summer to pass legislation that would create five licenses for minority-owned growing businesses.
Through the order, the court signaled that it will focus on arguments about whether members of the Maryland Wholesale Medical Cannabis Trade Association could intervene in the hearing before Williams on the temporary restraining order. Williams denied the request, and Alan M. Rifkin, managing partner of Rifkin Weiner Livingston LLC, which represents the trade association, filed a motion to bypass the Court of Special Appeals.
Rivkin on Friday applauded the Court of Appeals’ ruling.
“We are gratified by the court’s swift disposition of the restraining order, thus allowing this critically-important public health program to proceed,” he said. “We also appreciate the court’s granting of an expedited briefing and argument schedule.”