Amid criticism from legislators and at least one legal challenge, Maryland’s medical cannabis panel is planning to hire a consultant to look at whether they can make make their industry licensing process more streamlined toward diversity.
According to the AP, Maryland Medical Marijuana Commission Executive Director Patrick Jameson said the consultant would determine whether it’s feasible to conduct a disparity study on hiring practices, and that the commission would proceed with that recommendation. According to another report from The Sun, a diversity study would make it constitutional for the state to use race as a factor when picking companies for medical marijuana licenses.
The commission didn’t do that when choosing its 30 licensed growers and processors of medical cannabis, and that didn’t turn out so well. One company has sued the commission for not picking a racially diverse mix of companies. From a separate angle, two others have sued because they say they were dropped as top picks for reasons of geographic diversity.
A group of black state delegates has also cried foul over the selections announced this past summer, saying the commission went against a provision of the state’s medical pot law requiring them to achieve racial diversity in their picks. Del. Cheryl Glenn, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, has said she wants to introduce legislation to deal with the alleged lack of diversity when the General Assembly meets in January.
Separately, the commission announced today that it has awarded preliminary approval to 102 dispensaries that will receive state-issued licenses. We’ll be able to see the full list of those companies on Dec. 9.
It’s unclear how long a feasibility study about a disparity study might take, but it certainly doesn’t speed up the already heavily delayed rollout of medical weed in Maryland. If the consultant’s recommendation does indeed lead to a racial disparity study that then shows there is unequal representation, the state will at least be able to move forward with licensing. They would likely just need to look at race when making their picks, instead of doing it through the blind system.