Unfortunately for those in need, it’s not a problem with a speedy solution. Before the issue of distribution can be tackled by opening physical dispensaries, the state must first designate which companies will stock the shelves in said shops; more specifically, which prospective businesses will be allowed to grow cannabis plants and subsequently make other products from its extracts. Maryland officials will distribute a select number of licenses to potential marijuana growers and processors. The processing license allows grantees to produce extracts, pills, and other derivatives of the plant. Of the 146 grower and 124 processor applications, the state intends to award 15 licenses in each respective category.
Maryland’s population is nearly one-third African-American, the highest concentration among states with legalized cannabis. Many are frustrated with the lack of minority leadership within the companies granted preliminary licenses in Maryland. It’s also worth noting that very few of the companies have female leadership, which is relatively uncommon in the marijuana industry; women hold roughly 36% of the executive roles in cannabis-focused companies. Outraged lawmakers and prospective business owners have spoken up, calling for a review of the selection process in hopes of increased minority representation.
“We are not going to see this industry flourish in the state of Maryland with no minority participation,” warned Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat who is also chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. Cheryl Glenn has been instrumental in pushing marijuana legalization through for Maryland patients in need but now must weigh the options available, including filing an injunction to hit the pause button on the selection process altogether.
Maryland’s Legislative Black Caucus is scheduled to meet with Governor Larry Hogan today to discuss the diversity issues within Maryland’s cannabis industry.
The new laws that went into effect in 2014 stated that the selection process should “actively seek to achieve” racial diversity among the groups granted licenses. However, no additional weight was given to minority-submitted applications after Maryland’s Attorney General’s office wrote a letter condemning the practice as unconstitutional.
What’s even more troubling is who the Maryland officials did select for the exclusive (and highly profitable) club. Of the preliminary licenses already granted, 30 ownership groups have ties to law enforcement, while another 26 have a politician in their corner. 47 of the prospective ownership groups have out-of-state connections, including many in Colorado.
In the face of criticism, the selection committee has released their internal rankings of the applicants for each respective license.
1. Green Leaf Medical, Frederick County
2. Doctors Orders Maryland, Dorchester County
3. Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness, Carroll County
4. Freestate Wellness, Howard County
5. Kind Therapeutics USA, Washington County
6. SunMed Growers, Cecil County
7. HMS Health, Frederick County
8. Harvest of Maryland, Washington County
9. Curio Cultivation, Baltimore County
10. Grow West MD, Garrett County
11. ForwardGro, Anne Arundel County
12. MaryMed, Dorchester County
13. Temescal Wellness of Maryland, Baltimore City
14. Holistic Industries, Prince George’s County
15. Shore Naturals Rx, Worcester County
16. MD Cultivation and Processing, Frederick County
17. GTI Maryland, Washington County
18. Kind Earth Medicinals, Montgomery County
19. Maryland Natural Treatment Solutions, Caroline County
20. Mazey Farms, Garrett County
1. Curio Manufacturing
2. AFS Maryland
3. Maryland Compassionate Care and Wellness
5. Blair Wellness Center
6. Seven Points Argo-Therapeutics
7. Chesapeake Alternatives
8. Doctors Orders Maryland
9. Pro Green Medical
10. Rosebud Organics
11. Temescal Wellness of Maryland
12. Kind Therapeutics
13. FGM Processing
14. Holistic Industries
16. Citiva Maryland
19. HMS Health
20. Herbiculture Inc.
21. GTI Maryland
22. Freestate Partners
23. Harvest of Maryland
24. Wellness Institute of Maryland
25. Chesapeake Apothecary
26. Maryland Earthworks
27. Healthy Extracts
28. Chesacanna Inc
30. NH Medicinal
Officials will select 94 applicants from a pool of over 800 hopeful dispensary owners in the coming months. A spokeswoman from the selection committee said they hope to expand minority participation when they grant the dispensary licenses. Vanessa Lyon, on behalf of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, also added that any business selected would be required to submit annual breakdowns of the racial diversity within their organization, from the executives down to the workforce. “The Commission believes a diverse workforce is in the best interest of the industry,” said Lyon.
Let’s hope the commission walks the walk next time around.
Cover Image Courtesy of The Daily Chronic