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The state flag of Maryland flying on a clear, blue-skied day.

Thad Zajdowicz

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has awarded preliminary dispensary licenses to 102 dispensaries after receiving 882 license applications, according to a WBAL-TV report. During a commission meeting, officials also said they were in the process of hiring a diversity consultant to address the lack of diversity claims in the licensing process.

“The commission is in the process and plans to hire an expert consultant who specializes in minority business affairs to do a disparity evaluation and provide future guidance on minority business enterprise initiatives and make recommendations to the commission,” Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission, said in the report.

The addition of the diversity consultant follows allegations by members of the Black Legislative Caucus that the commission failed to follow the diversity requirements in the law and a lawsuit by Alternative Medicine Maryland — a minority-owned Annapolis-based company — claiming that  the commission “ignored race and ethnicity throughout the licensing process in clear contravention of its authorizing statute.”

The agency has met with members of the Black Legislative Caucus and the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs to discuss the concerns of stakeholders. Additionally, members have asked licensees for their input on a comprehensive diversity plan.

Commissioner Paul Davies admits that the program has been delayed, but does not attribute it to the backlash from the preliminary licensing process — which drew another lawsuit from two companies that were denied a license after the commission reshuffled the application ranking to meet geographic diversity requirements in the medical cannabis law. Instead, Davies said the delay was caused by the program’s early success.

“This program has had more applications that we are aware of than any other state in the country,” he said.

The names of the dispensaries awarded preliminary licenses will be announced on Dec. 9.

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