Inside the Maryland Senate chambers.

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The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is set to award preliminary medical cannabis dispensary licenses on Nov. 28, despite three lawsuits and threats by the leader of the Legislative Black Caucus to introduce legislation to start the process over again due to the lack of preliminary cultivation licenses to minority owned companies.

According to the Washington Post report, the dispensary applicants will be approved in the same manner as their cultivating counterparts — the applications will be scored by a third-party and their identities will be unknown to the board. The winners will be announced on Dec. 9.

The blinded process used by the board is partially responsible for the controversy that has marred the medical marijuana program in the state thus far. Maryland Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, the leader of the Black Caucus, has suggested that the commission has “no oversight” and “no diversity” and she is pushing for the process to be started over. Maryland Cultivation and Processing and GTI Maryland have sued the commission over their cultivation application denials, alleging that they were unfairly bumped from their initial high rankings over “geographic diversity” requirements in the law. Alternative Medicine Maryland, a minority-owned Annapolis-based company, has also sued the agency, alleging that they “ignored race and ethnicity throughout the licensing process in clear contravention of its authorizing statute.”

Vanessa Lyon, spokeswoman for the commission, said that businesses awarded preliminary licenses must pass additional vetting before they can begin operations and that it is “premature to characterize” the industry’s diversity before any company is fully approved to operate in the state.

“The commission believes it is in the best interest of sick people to move the pre-approval process forward, however, the commission is committed to working with the legislature on these complex issues,” she said.

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