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Missouri and
 Maryland Open to Adult-Use

Two states face different pathways in launching legal, adult-use markets. Missouri has a plan that relies on the established medical market, while Maryland’s road has yet to be built.




WITH THE DUST finally settled from Election Day 2022, we know Maryland and Missouri will be the 20th and 21st states to legalize recreational cannabis for adults 21 and older.

With overwhelming national support for cannabis legalization, coupled by inaction on the federal level, it’s not a major surprise to see states continue to take matters into their own hands.

What can we expect from these new markets? How will we know if Maryland and Missouri are getting it right? I’ll be watching launch timelines, new licensing and flexibility from the two states’ regulatory agencies and legislatures in handling these processes.


Maryland’s Question 4, which passed with more than 65 percent of the vote, creates a state constitutional right for those over the age of 21 to use cannabis. However, it’s not yet clear how Marylanders might exercise their new right.

Question 4 takes effect July 1, 2023, but it lacks any structure for commercial sales of adult-use cannabis. That may leave Maryland in a cannabis conundrum other states have previously faced. Adults may be able to legally consume cannabis, but so far, a way to legally access it has not been established.


As a former cannabis regulator and having launched a state cannabis program, I lived by the mantra “under-promise and over-deliver.” That seems like an advisable approach for Maryland regulators.

It’s expected that the Maryland legislature will get to work crafting legislation for commercial sales of adult-use cannabis. But with no framework, no rule and the inherent challenge of trying to do anything quickly with a government commission, a July 1, 2023, launch is a big ask.

However, there is reason for hope. With the passage of Question 4, House Bill 837 takes effect and provides initiatives necessary for launch and funding for health monitoring, data collection and small-, minority- and women-owned business, among other programs.

In Maryland, there is an eagerness to create an equitable commercial system. The state’s medical program potentially provides an infrastructure for launch of adult-use sales.

Will the launch happen on the back of the medical system, or will new licenses be the focal point? There is a lot yet to be determined in Maryland. A balanced approach is generally advisable and getting it right is better than getting it done quickly.


Unlike Maryland’s Question 4, Missouri’s Amendment 3, which passed with 54 percent of the vote, provides a structure for commercial sales.

Missouri’s established medical cannabis program will provide the infrastructure to launch the newly approved adult-use cannabis program.

The Missouri Department of Health issued draft rules 48 hours after the election and will soon begin accepting applications from medical operators. Typically, one doesn’t see this speed and due diligence from a regulatory agency! However, Missouri has a key feature working in its favor which makes a timely launch realistic—its regulatory structure.

Missouri’s medical program and soon-to-be adult-use program are administered by the Section for Medical Marijuana Regulations within its Department of Health and Senior Services Division of Regulation & Licensure. The department has full discretion, allowing for the agility to make a timely launch a reality.


Amendment 3 also calls for issuance of new micro-licenses to applicants who are from disproportionally impacted communities, disabled veterans or an eligible small business—a more manageable pathway into the industry with lower fees.

Like Maryland, a timely launch seems possible but let’s keep a close eye on the development of new licenses. The proposed lottery system isn’t ideal but is the best choice for picking winners and losers.

Reinventing the Wheel

Launching new state cannabis programs is a detail-oriented process, if done right. Like most things in life, a balanced approach is needed to achieve desired outcomes. While much of the attention will be on timelines, this former regulator would advise those in charge to take the time to get it right—you know what they say about the toothpaste once it leaves the tube.



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