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Maryland’s MMJ Program on Pause as It Seeks More Diversity

Maryland’s medical marijuana program could experience further delays after its cannabis commission failed to follow a state mandate requiring a racially-diverse group of business owners.

Maryland’s Cannabis Commission announced that it would do what’s necessary to ensure that the state’s medical marijuana industry is racially diverse. After pre-approving 15 growing licenses and 15 processor licenses last month, the commission has been under criticism for not following the law and considering whether minority applicants were among the business owners awarded.

House Bill 881, which legalized medical marijuana in Maryland in 2014, requires that the commission consider minority applicants. According to the Baltimore Sun, roughly a third of Maryland is African American, but none of the licenses pre-awarded went to teams lead by a minority. Nor did any of the pre-awarded licenses go to female-led teams. The commission had decided not to take into consideration the race of the applicants after it was warned that other documentation was necessary for it to be done legally.

Maryland Cannabis Commission Chairman Paul Davies has said a team of attorneys general and medical marijuana commissioners will be developing a plan to assure diversity in the program from here on out. He notes that the process could mean more delays for the state’s already-delayed medical marijuana program.

“Nothing is off the table,” Davies told reporters following a meeting with Attorney General Brian Frosh. “It is a very complex problem.”

CBD hemp oil medical marijuana

Currently pending are up to 109 dispensary licenses, for which there have been 811 applications. The dispensary licenses were supposed to be approved earlier this year, but the large number of applicants caused a processing slowdown.

The legal marijuana industry in the United States has found itself with a significant diversity problem. The Drug Policy Alliance estimates that less than 1 percent of the market is owned or operated by people of color. House Bill 881 attempted to anticipate and address the problem with a state mandate to create a racially diverse group of owners, but the commission failed to follow the law.

Maryland’s 45-member Legislative Black Caucus has said it will do what it can to stop the commission from issuing the remaining available licenses until more are awarded to minority-owned businesses.

“We will not be accepting crumbs,” said Del. Cheryl Glenn, chair of the caucus. “Do not think for one minute that anyone is going to move forward without minority participation. It ain’t going to happen.”

Maryland’s medical marijuana program has already been subject to a two-year delay since its legalization. Officials had hoped to have the program up and operating by the end of 2016, but its opening projections have now been pushed out to mid-2017.

“We have to come up with something that moves quickly,” said Darrell Carrington, executive director of the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association. “I don’t know if starting all the way over again from scratch is fair to the patient.”

A report published earlier this year predicts that the Maryland medical marijuana market will pull in $20 million to $40 million in legal cannabis sales in its first full year of operation.

Once the Maryland medical marijuana program is running, patients suffering from a list of approved conditions and with a recommendation from a licensed physician will be legally allowed to possess up to 120 grams of medical cannabis. House Bill 881 approved medical marijuana for the treatment any condition that has proven refractory to traditional treatments.

“One of our biggest commitments is to make medical cannabis available to patients as soon as possible,” Davis said.

Despite the slowdown in enacting Maryland’s medical marijuana law, cannabinoids are already available in Maryland now in the form of CBD hemp oil supplements. Available to purchase and ship to all 50 states, these products are legal across the country because the CBD is derived from low THC hemp rather than psychoactive marijuana, making them safe for use by anyone in your family.

Learn more about Maryland’s cannabis laws on our education page and keep up with the latest cannabis legislative developments through our news feed.

Post by Eve Ripley

Eve is a writer specializing in cannabis education and editorials related to cannabis industry news.

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