Jeff Black, the restaurateur behind Black’s Restaurant Group, is poised to become a player in the state’s budding medical marijuana industry.
Black is the chief operating officer of Doctor’s Orders LLC—one of the businesses given preliminary approval by the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to grow and process medical marijuana in the state. Black’s restaurants include Black’s Bar & Kitchen in Bethesda, Black Market in Garrett Park and Republic in Takoma Park.
Doctor’s Orders was one of seven businesses chosen by the commission to both grow and process medical marijuana, while 16 were selected to either only grow the drug or process it into edibles, pills or other forms.
The selection Monday is not a final approval—each of the businesses will undergo background checks and financial examinations by the state before licenses are formally issued.
Doctor’s Orders received the licenses in a competition that pitted hundreds of businesses against each other for the potentially lucrative right to produce medical marijuana in the state. The process, according to The Washington Post, involved teams made up of high-ranking law enforcement and political officials.
Doctor’s Orders drew controversy when the Post reported it had hired Del. Dan K. Morhaim (D-Baltimore County) to serve as its clinical director. The lawmaker led the effort to legalize medical marijuana in the state and did not disclose his position with Doctor’s Orders during the process, according to the paper.
Morhaim told the Post he started with the company in 2015 and has no ownership interest, but would help the business consult on medical issues. Morhaim works as a physician in Baltimore and an associate faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Black told the paper Morhaim’s role in Doctor’s Orders was vetted with the state. The business plans to grow the marijuana in Dorchester County.
Only one business chosen by the state’s cannabis commission plans to operate in Montgomery County—Rosebud Organics LLC. The business was chosen to process the drug and is led by chief executive Jonathan Genderson, a liquor store owner in D.C.’s Capitol Hill.
When the businesses were announced Monday, the state’s cannabis commission wrote on its website that its actions “mark a giant step forward for the medical cannabis program in Maryland.”
Potential medical marijuana buyers will likely need to wait until 2017 to obtain the drug legally because officials have not approved dispensary licenses. The commission said on its website 811 businesses applied to become a dispensary.
The businesses approved to grow and cultivate medical marijuana now have a year to meet regulatory requirements, raise capital, acquire real estate, securing zoning approvals, construct facilities, install equipment and hire and train staff before receiving a final inspection by the state and a formal license, according to the commission.
Black couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday morning.