Legislators say that efforts to diversify medical marijuana in Maryland move forward after amendments to the bill are made. In January, a disparity study ordered by Gov. Larry Hogan determined that women and minorities lack representation in the industry. Currently, minorities own only one of the cannabis processing companies licensed by the state.
Lawmakers had hoped to set aside a portion of the state’s medical marijuana licenses for businesses with minority ownership. But Attorney General Brian Frosh determined such a plan would violate the state’s constitution.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan added that reserving licenses for minorities would expose the state to litigation from white business owners denied permits.
“You can’t throw those guys out or the state will be subject to lawsuits from all of them, but if they can find a way to broaden it and be more inclusive, we are all for it,” he told local media.
Lawmakers Seek Alternate Plan
Baltimore City Delegate Cheryl Glenn is the chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. She also has arthritis and uses medical marijuana to treat it. She said that she has prioritized increasing diversity in the state’s medical marijuana industry.
“We have a litany of people who are ready to apply for those licenses, who have the money to get these businesses up and running,” Glenn said.
As a solution, members of the House of Delegates introduced House Bill 2 (HB 2) at the beginning of the legislative session. The bill mandates changes to the state medical marijuana commission’s structure and operations. The measure also includes several provisions to encourage minority involvement in the industry.
HB 2 would increase the number of commissioners that serve on the regulatory body to eight. It also requires the board’s membership to at least somewhat reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the state. The bill also forbids members from having a financial interest in the industry.
The new regulations would require the commission to perform outreach to existing minority-owned businesses to inform them how they can participate in the cannabis industry. The bill also creates training programs for jobs in the cannabis industry.
Under the measure, the commission would create a partnership with the state Department of Labor to identify job opportunities for minorities and ex-offenders.
In order to increase access to medical marijuana for patients, the bill also creates a Compassionate Use Fund. The commission would administer the fund, which would provide free or discounted cannabis to eligible patients in need.
Final Hit: Efforts To Diversify Medical Marijuana in Maryland Move Forward
The House of Delegates passed HB 2 on March 2. The bill was subsequently referred to the Senate, where it is currently being debated.
Although it has been a long road with many obstacles, Glenn believes lawmakers will succeed in diversifying the industry.
“I think we are going to finish the session with a product I’m going to be satisfied with,” Glenn said.
A Senate committee is now considering even more amendments to the bill. They plan to send it to the floor on Monday for consideration by the full body. If successful there, the measure would head back to the House for review. Gov. Hogan would then need to sign it before it could become law.