Lawmakers push to diversify Maryland’s medical marijuana industry

Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus seeks to change the membership of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission to better reflect the diversity of the state, the Washington Post reports.

Black state lawmakers have criticized the commission for authorizing cultivation businesses led almost entirely by white executives, and not acting in the spirit of the 2014 legalization law’s provisions calling for diversity among growers.

While the state’s medical cannabis law passed in 2014, the program has not begun and no dispensaries are open, nor patients being served. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Coalition says the Legislative Black Caucus’ push could further delay the launch of the program, which is now expected to launch by the end of 2017.

Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the black caucus, says the 15 companies already approved to grow marijuana would not lose their licenses under the bill, which is still being drafted, but would not be able to start operating until additional minority-owned businesses also were approved. She told the Post there’s also legislation in the works to dissolve the commission and place the medical marijuana program under the state’s health department.

MMMC chairman Paul Davies calls the idea of dismantling the commission an “insult” and it would be “completely unjustified” to restart the application process.

The Post reports that the state’s attorney general’s office has said officials needed to display racial disparities in the medical marijuana industry before offering racial preferences in licenses.

Such disparities have led to legislation in Oakland as well as Philadelphia.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health recently released applications for its Medical Marijuana Program which show that diversity and community impact will be considered heavily by licensing officials.

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