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Maryland is pushing for a more diverse cannabis industry


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Thor Benson / Cannabis News Box Contributor

State leaders in Maryland are moving forward with a plan that would make sure the state’s medical cannabis industry is more diverse.

Lawmakers have agreed to make sure some minority cultivators who have previously not received licenses will receive them, citing the difficulties minorities have had getting into this kind of industry in the past. This is an important step, as the War on Drugs disproportionately harmed communities of color, so many argue it’s necessary to help those communities benefit from legalization.

Kate Bell, legislative counsel at the Marijuana Policy Project, told Cannabis News Box that there is some diversity in the state’s cannabis industry, but in terms of minorities receiving growing licenses, there has been a problem.

“The licenses that are considered most lucrative in Maryland are the grower licenses, because of the oligopoly created by the state, and no grower licenses were obtained by minority-owned businesses,” Bell said. “However, there is more diversity in the larger picture of the owners, investors, and employees of all cannabis businesses, at least according to the statistics compiled by the MMCC.”

Bell agreed its important that communities of color benefit from legalization because of the harms prohibition has caused their communities. She said one of the main reasons minority business owners likely couldn’t get into the growing system was because it costs a lot of money to get into it in Maryland, and there is a wealth disparity between races in the state.

“The measure cannot fix the historical wealth gap nor end federal prohibition, and it does not allow a free market,” Bell said. “It just adds a small number of additional licenses. How many minority-owned businesses are licensed will depend on who applies, how the applications are evaluated, and how much preference is given to minority-owned businesses. In other words, lawmakers will need to actually follow up to ensure that the MMCC implements the law the way they intended this time.”

Bell hopes Maryland lawmakers will continue to consider the needs of minority business owners when the state, likely, ends up legalizing social use cannabis. She said there definitely needs to be room for smaller businesses that don’t have endless funds to use for state licenses and such to make their way into the industry.

It’s hard to see legalization as progress without it benefitting the communities prohibition deeply harmed, but it appears many lawmakers across the country are realizing this.

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