Maryland Farmers Pass on Supporting Medical Marijuana

January 9, 2016

Jeremy Cox, 4 p.m. EST December 8, 2015


The Maryland Farm Bureau has declined again to support efforts to grow marijuana for medical purposes in the Free State.


Officially, the powerful agricultural lobby is taking no position on the fledgling industry. For the second time in as many years, a county delegation's attempt to bring the state group on board failed to make it to a vote before the full delegation.


"It's something I think a lot of members are watching other states to see how it plays out," said Matt Teffeau, the farm bureau's assistant director of government relations. "A lot of our members are interested in it, but it doesn't have the support to move forward."


That the measure would get as far as it did among the group's right-leaning membership may be a testament to Maryland's shift on marijuana in recent years.


When lawmakers first approved legislation in 2013, it only allowed hospitals affiliated with education programs to dispense marijuana to patients as part of research projects. When that got no takers, the state twice loosened its reins.


Now, the state is wading through hundreds of applications from private companies to grow, process and dispense medical marijuana. A state medical marijuana commission is expected to hand out licenses for 15 growers and up to 94 dispensaries early next year.


At its 100th annual convention, meeting Monday and Tuesday in Ocean City, the Maryland Farm Bureau's nearly 300 delegates considered several new policy proposals, ranging from barring public schools from serving skim milk to adding the Palmer Amaranth to the state's list of noxious weeds. (Both measures passed.)


The medical marijuana proposal didn't make it to the floor, however.


Proposed by the Baltimore County delegation, the full text of the statement said: "We support the production and sale of medical marijuana."


The bureau's board of directors declined to back the measure at its meeting in November, leaving it on the outside looking in during this week's convention.


Growing marijuana may sound agricultural but not the way the state is regulating it, Teffeau said. Operations can only grow it hydroponically indoors under powerful lights.


"Right now, you're looking at industrial operations where you'd have to have security and manpower," he added.


The bureau previously has staked a position against recreational marijuana, but it is in favor of raising industrial hemp.



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