A day after the 2017 General Assembly session ended, some of the state’s top black lawmakers are calling for one more session to revisit a bill that would expand the number of licenses for legally growing marijuana in Maryland.
Last year, the state’s medical marijuana commission picked 15 growers and processors apiece for preliminary licenses. However, black lawmakers cried foul at the lack of minority representation among the pre-licensed firms’ owners, and two companies sued the commission, arguing they were left out of the growers’ pool for reasons of “geographic diversity.”
The bill in question, proposed earlier this year by Del. Cheryl Glenn of Baltimore, would create seven more highly coveted licenses to grow marijuana for Maryland’s gradually emerging cannabis industry. Two of those licenses would go to the pair of companies that sued the state: Green Thumb Industries, which planned to plant cannabis at a facility near Hagerstown, and Maryland Cultivation and Processing, which would have operated in Frederick County.
Five others would be designated for minority-owned businesses, who lawmakers have argued deserve a bigger piece of the medical weed pie.
The Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission has pushed back against legislators’ accusations about its picks lacking diversity, publishing data online (no longer available) that indicates, with pre-licensed dispensaries included, that 35 percent of all Maryland medical cannabis businesses are minority-owned, 15 percent of them by African-Americans. The commission has also hired a diversity consultant to help address these concerns amid the state-regulated industry’s slow rollout.
Glenn’s bill went just about it as far as it could go in the General Assembly session without arriving at the governor’s desk, being amended several times and passing both houses. But on Monday night, the final day for voting in the General Assembly, a compromise bill didn’t make it to a full vote when the clock struck midnight.
The Baltimore-homegrown delegate also proposed another measure to reorganize the cannabis commission and called on the public to come testify in favor of it Annapolis. The bill never made it to a full vote.
Today, Glenn and Sen. Joan Carter Conway, who also backed Glenn’s bill to create more licenses, will call on Gov. Larry Hogan, Senate President Mike Miller and House Speaker Mike Busch to open a one-day special session to move the proposal through. They’ll be joined by GTI backer Eugene Monroe – formerly an offensive tackle for the Baltimore Ravens – and director Pete Kadens, as well as their attorney.
High-profile Baltimore lawyer Billy Murphy and African-American Medical Cannabis Association president Joe Gaskins will also be present during the announcement.
A spokesperson for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission wasn’t available to speak Wednesday morning and hasn’t responded to a message requesting comment.