The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has received more than 160 applications for one of the state’s 14 new medical cannabis licenses, the Baltimore Sun reports. The license expansion is aimed at minority- and women-owned businesses and comes more than a year after the legislature and Gov. Larry Hogan approved a law to address the lack of diversity in the state’s cannabis industry.
Commission Chairman Brian Lopez indicated that the agency was aware of some technical problems applicants had with submitting their applications online but that none would be penalized if they missed the deadline due to the difficulties. He added that all of the applicants that submitted their $2,000 application fee would be notified Friday if their application was complete.
Following the rollout of the medical cannabis program in 2014, it immediately came under fire for its lack of diversity despite the original law calling for race and gender to be considered when awarding licenses. In the initial round of licensing, not one was awarded to a minority-owned firm. A state-commissioned “disparity study” confirmed what social-equity advocates had argued, concluding that the state needed to implement “race- and gender-based measures to remediate discrimination” in the space.
The legislative push was led by Del. Cheryl Glenn, the head of the Legislative Black Caucus.
“I’m sure the commission understands the importance of making sure that we have the diversity that we should have in Maryland. I’m hoping most of the licenses will be awarded not only to minorities, but to Maryland minorities. That’s the whole reason we’re doing this.” – Glenn, to the Sun
In March, Maryland licensed producer Curio Wellness filed a lawsuit against the state over the licensing plan claiming that the commission had violated its own rules by soliciting applications without first completing a supply and demand survey. Days later, following backlash, the company dropped the lawsuit. Curio CEO Michael Bronfein said at that time that he stood by the “merits of the lawsuit” but didn’t want to divide the community, noting that 36 percent of the company’s workforce is female, and 38 percent are African American.
Four of the new licenses are for cultivation while 10 are for processing. Medical cannabis sales in Maryland reached $109 million last year. As of last month, there are 15 cultivators, 16 processors, and 75 dispensaries licensed in the state.