Thirty percent of Maryland residents are black people. Exactly zero black people, from Maryland or from anywhere else, were selected last year to receive one of the state’s 15 licenses to grow medical marijuana, despite a law on the books requiring “racial diversity” to be weighed.
And neither are any of the 102 businesses pre-approved to sell marijuana—out of 811 applicants—run by black people.
Sensitive to this—and to marijuana’s pervasive equality problem, in which very few of the businesses and entrepreneurs taking advantage of the billion-dollar freedom frenzy are the people who suffered the most during the drug war—Maryland elected officials are issuing more licenses, in the hope that the state’s cannabis industry can be a little less homogeneous, as the Baltimore Sun reports.
In a deal announced last week that is guaranteed to not satisfy everybody, including the black leaders pushing for diversity, leaders of the state Senate and House will grant five more licenses following the issuance of a “racial diversity study.”
They’ll be issued pursuant to a “new licensing system that considers minority ownership is enacted,” the newspaper reported.
In the meantime, the lily-white firms cleared to start growing cannabis will start without them.
Medical marijuana patients in Maryland have been waiting since 2013 for access to cannabis. State officials say the first legal medical marijuana sale could happen as soon as this summer—though “lawsuits” and now discord over how the licenses to grow marijuana were awarded may delay things further.
This includes the “outrage” from the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, who were floored when none of the 15 marijuana-grow licenses went to a black-owned company.
“We will not be accepting crumbs,” said state delegate Cheryl Glenn, the caucus chair, at an event last fall.
Some of those leaders, including Baltimore’s Glenn, who was one of the architects of the medical marijuana program, want more delay—in order for other companies, including, possibly, black-owned ones, to win permits and start preparing for business. Glenn and other diversity-minded elected officials have gone as far as to suggest blowing everything up—dismantling the state medical marijuana commission that awarded the licenses—and starting over.
Coincidentally, other politicians are now saying that the time is now to start issuing weeds to patients—without (more) delay.
“We’ve got to stop messing around and get something done,” said Minority Leader J.B. Jennings, according to the Sun. “Because there are sick people who need this.”
They’re not wrong. Patients have been waiting a long time and have been forced to go to the underground, illegal market in the meantime.
At the same time, what’s a few more months after waiting years if it ensures Maryland doesn’t fall into the same lack-of-diversity trap seen in other states?
In some places, including Oakland, California, local leaders have taken drastic action in order to see that some of the cannabis businesses are minority-owned.
In Maryland, as everywhere else, black people were disproportionately arrested far more often than white people for using marijuana. Keeping black people out of the marijuana industry would be a final straw too callous and too obvious even for career racists.
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