In an effort to increase minority business ownership, the Maryland House of Delegates has passed a new measure to increase the number of medical cannabis growers from 15 to 20. The measure, passed Thursday with a vote of 121-16, now goes to the state Senate. None of the licensed growers in Maryland are owned by a person of color, although about one-third of the state’s population is black.
“The goal is to have diversity,” said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who is sponsoring the measure. “One-third of the population of the state of Maryland is African-American, and it is the African-American population that has been for generations disproportionately impacted by marijuana laws, so obviously we want to get those new licenses in the hands, to the degree that we can, of African-American-owned companies.”
The measure would also increase the number of cannabis processors from 15 to 25, with seven of the extra licenses going to minority-owned companies. According to a state report released in January, data on discrimination in Maryland’s economy provides “a strong basis in evidence” to support helping businesses owned by women and minorities in the industries relevant to the state’s medical cannabis industry. The report noted that the study found evidence that the economy-wide state contracting disparities in Maryland’s relevant markets are “even greater than disparities in the public sector.”
Maryland’s medical cannabis program began in December of last year, and many companies have shown in interest in Maryland cannabis as the market is expected to be lucrative. The law in Maryland will allow wide patient access, with nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists and even midwives will be allowed to provide medical recommendations in addition to doctors.
Last year, a bill to add additional licenses failed to pass in the closing minutes of the legislative session. Glenn, the chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, said she has been working with the Senate since the session ended last year in April to work out a bill both chambers could support.