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Director named for state marijuana commission (MD)
    #763451 - 12/26/14 09:13 PM (3 years, 5 months ago)

A veteran state economic development official has been tapped to lead Maryland's medical marijuana commission, officials announced Friday.

Hannah Byron will serve as the commission's first director as the panel implements the rules for buying and selling marijuana and begins to oversee the industry. Her appointment is effective Jan. 14.

Byron, who has worked for the past eight years as an assistant secretary in the state Department of Business and Economic Development, said she is committed to making the program operational as quickly as possible. Patients are not expected to be able to get the drug until 2016.

"We face an urgent challenge to get medical marijuana to patients whose doctors have certified that they need it," Byron said. "I look forward to working with the medical profession and patients, law enforcement, business and agricultural leaders, the commissioners and others to implement this law."

Del. Dan K. Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat and longtime advocate for medical marijuana, called Byron an "excellent choice."

"Hannah is an outstanding, highly capable, exceptional, smart, savvy, personable public official, and I look forward to working with her," he said. "If this program has a chance of working, she will be instrumental in making it work."

Morhaim, the only physician in the state legislature, has expressed concerns in the past about the program's startup, pointing to delays he says are causing "needy or suffering patients" to be denied relief the drug could provide. He also has criticized the commission for working behind closed doors.

Dr. Paul Davies, the commission's chairman, called Byron an "extraordinarily effective public official."

"We are excited that she will bring her deep experience with the business community and her commitment to the citizens of Maryland to lead the commission," Davies said.

Maryland struggled to create its medical marijuana program. A law passed in 2013 relied on academic centers to distribute the drug, but none volunteered. This year, state lawmakers recrafted the program to allow certified physicians to recommend marijuana to qualified patients.

The law calls for 15 growers and an unspecified number of dispensaries to be opened across the state. Last month, the panel officially proposed regulations setting license fees for growers and dispensaries as well as rules for patients to obtain the drug in either a smokable or liquid form.

The Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Marijuana Commission, named for the late mother of a state legislator, has also approved rules for training physicians and the amount of marijuana a patient can pick up in a month.

The commission is charged not only with crafting the rules to govern buying and selling marijuana, but overseeing the industry once it is up and running.


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