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Black Lawmakers in Maryland Planning Legislation to Address Lack of Minorities in MMJ Industry

Black lawmakers in Maryland are planning to introduce emergency legislation to address the lack of minority-owned businesses approved by the state’s Medical Cannabis Commission, the Washington Post reports. Language in the 2014 legislation requires regulators to “actively seek and achieve” racial and ethnic diversity in the industry; however, none of the 15 companies approved in August for preliminary cultivation licenses are led by an African-American.

Democratic Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said that the group does not plan “to delay anything” regarding the implementation of the medical marijuana program. During the meeting of the caucus last week, the group floated ideas to address the issue, such as eliminating caps on growing licenses and conducting another round of licensing exclusively for minority-owned businesses.

“This is a good modern-day civil rights fight,” Glenn said in the report.

According to the report, the Medical Cannabis Commission did not give extra weight to applications with minority leaders. The commission says the attorney general’s office suggested that such a plan would have been illegal without a study showing discrimination within the industry.

Cannabis commission chairman Paul Davies said he and Attorney General Brian Frosh, “want to explore every possible avenue in order to ensure maximum minority involvement” in the state’s medical marijuana program.

Glenn said that House Speaker Michael Busch (D) is committed to fast-tracking the proposal when the next session begins in January. Republican Gov. Larry Hogan has reportedly dispatched two of his top staff members to work with black legislators on the issue.      

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