Commercial-grade cannabis plants inside of a licensed, indoor cultivation site.

Rory Savatgy

Bill to Add More MMJ Licenses Due to Diversity Issues Planned in Maryland

Members of the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus are drafting a bill that would award 10 new medical cannabis grower and processor licenses specifically for African American entrepreneurs after none were granted licenses by the state Medical Cannabis Commission, the Star and Democrat reports. At least two African American-led medical cannabis companies have sued the commission claiming it was “derelict in its legislatively mandated duty to actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic and geographical diversity when licensing medical cannabis growers.”

The House of Delegates attempted to add five licenses last April via a bill championed by caucus Chairwoman Del. Cheryl Glenn; however, that bill failed to gain approval in the chamber following a round of amendments. If approved, the bill likely would have put an end to the lawsuits against the commission. That month, Gov. Larry Hogan ordered a diversity study of the state’s medical cannabis program to determine whether minorities were at a disadvantage in trying to obtain licenses. The results of that study are expected next month.

According to the commission, 321 cultivation, distribution, and processing licenses were awarded in the state and 208 of those went to white men. Of the remaining, 113 went to a company led by a member of a minority or multiracial group, while 55 were awarded to companies led by Black men and women.

Glenn called the results of the license approvals “shameful” in a state where “one-third of the population is African American.”

“I will bank on it that we’ll come away from the table with five new licenses for growers and five new licenses for processors that will be awarded based on the results of the disparity study,” she said in the Star and Democrat report. “What does that mean? That means these licenses will go to, in large part, African Americans.”

The bill would also set up a “compassionate-use fund” comprised of industry fees to help make cannabis products more affordable to Maryland patients who need it, as medical insurance does not cover the costs.

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