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Residents of Maryland who want to buy marijuana for medicinal purposes are likely going to have to wait until 2017, nearly four years after the state first made it legal.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission announced Monday that it won’t award licenses to grow and process the drug until sometime this summer.

It takes about four to six months to grow and process cannabis, industry and government officials say.

The commission had said it would start issuing licenses in January, but backed of that timetable last month after receiving more than 1,000 applications from would-be pot producers and dispensers.

The commission said it has no target date for awarding licenses for retail dispensaries to begin operating, and cannot say when marijuana will be available to patients.

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Maryland MMJ
Drying marijuana plants before they are processed for shipping (Blair Gable/Reuters)

It said the delay in authorizing growing and processing facilities is due to the large volume of applications and the need to vet them carefully.

The state cannot have more than 15 growing facilities and more than two dispensaries in each state senate district.

Marijuana advocates and prospective business owners say delays could be costly. Several interested growers have already started buying land and leasing buildings for their facilities so they can quickly get started if they win licenses.

Maryland’s medical cannabis program was first approved by lawmakers in 2013, but had to be adjusted multiple times before applications could be sought and submitted.

Maryland’s top marijuana regulator, Hannah Byron, is stepping down as executive director of the commission at the end of January, after a long career in government.

The commission has not named her successor.

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