The Maryland Cannabis Market Matters More Than Companies May Realize

It’s prime time to get in before it gets much bigger

The Maryland cannabis market is a huge opportunity. - Credit by Getty Images
Headshot of Ann-Marie Alcántara

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The grass is getting much greener for the cannabis industry on the East Coast, as Maryland continues to ramp up the licensing of dispensaries.

Though the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission approved 102 dispensaries initially, only 50 of have been fully awarded. Despite the slow rollout, that hasn’t stopped cannabis companies like Leaflink and Green Bits from arriving on the scene.

“The idea of entering Maryland is that a lot of these East Coast states are becoming part of a domino effect,” said Ryan Smith, CEO of Leaflink. “Maryland is the first touch-down point.”

Leaflink, a business-to-business management platform for brands and retailers, entered the Maryland market to gain a foothold in the industry and help companies figure out solutions to problems that have occurred in other states.

The company has four cannabis brands live on the platform now for Maryland. According to Smith, the platform lets retailers stay compliant with brands they’re purchasing from by making sure licenses are in good standing in each state.

While entering the Maryland market definitely helps Leaflink grow, there are several other reasons for entering, such as opening up where brands on the platform are going.

“In some of these East Coast states, we’ve seen a lot of capital being raised and companies launching with the brand in mind from the very beginning,” Smith said. “And I think we’ll keep seeing more of that as more states come online, because most companies are thinking about not just the state they’re in, but the next one they want to grow into.”

Ben Curren, co-founder and CEO at Green Bits, a cannabis retail platform that also operates in Maryland, recommends that cannabis companies get into the market now, before it’s too big but also because the state represents how the weed market can operate there.

“As Massachusetts comes online, people will look to Maryland,” Curren said. “It’s a better market where it’s controlled and people are getting their medicine.”

It also helps that Maryland is in Congress’ backyard, which enables more representatives to see the cannabis market evolve and to form their own opinions, Curren said.

Maryland isn’t the only East Coast state that should be on your cannabis radar: Legalization for either medical or recreational use is set to hit New Jersey, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, with Massachusetts expected to come online on July 1.

“Maryland was important for us because it was the first East Coast state,” Smith said. “It’s the first of many now to go if not medical, [at least] recreational.”

@itstheannmarie Ann-Marie Alcántara is a tech reporter for Adweek, focusing on direct-to-consumer brands and ecommerce.