Baltimore – Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission announced on Monday that it is hiring a diversity consultant.

Critics point to the lack of minority-owned businesses among those named as finalists to grow and process pot.

The diversity consultant will determine if, and how, the commission could do a disparity study. The state is in a classic catch 22 situation. A racial disparity study could help put extra weight to minority applications. But the study can’t be done until there is an industry to examine.

The commission gave preliminary license approval to 102 dispensaries. The panel also addressed criticism over the lack of diversity among those already named as finalists to grow and process medical marijuana.

“The commission is in the process and plans to hire an expert consultant who specializes in minority business affairs to do a disparity evaluation and provide future guidance on minority business enterprise initiatives and make recommendations to the commission,” said Patrick Jameson, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

The Maryland state attorney general cautioned against providing extra weight to minority applicants, suggesting preferences would be unconstitutional without a history of racial disparity to justify the move.

In August, Baltimore City Delegate Cheryl Glenn took exception to the AG letter.

“The opinion was misinterpreted was misinterpreted by the Medical Marijuana Commission,” Glenn said in August.

According to the commission, preliminary data show significant minority participation. The panel is on record highly encouraging businesses to recruit minorities. They are seeking a comprehensive diversity plan from licensees and they’ve met with the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs.

Steven Johnson, chief financial officer of Kisima Nursery, is seeking a dispensing license in Prince George’s County.

“It’s a little late now. Right now, the applications have already been accepted. The process is about over. Unless they plan on issuing more licenses in the future, the process is not going to help us anyway,” Johnson said.

The commission believes the makeup of corporate ownership may change as they go through stage 2 applications. Medical marijuana may not be available until next summer.

“The only significant delay has been the success of the program. This program has had more applications that we are aware of than any other state in the country,” said Paul Davies, chairman of Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission.

Glenn, who is also chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, called a meeting Dec. 7 to discuss options, including whether to pursue legislation authorizing regulators to rescind licenses and start the process over.

The commission will release the names of the dispensaries given preliminary approval on Dec. 9.

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Full Article: Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission Hires Diversity Consultant
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