The General Assembly voted Monday morning to pass a bill designed to open medical marijuana growing to minority-owned businesses, and specifically to African-Americans. The bill was the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus’s top priority in Annapolis this year.
None of the 15 businesses already licensed to grow marijuana are owned by African Americans. The bill allows the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission to license up to five new growers, with the idea that some of those will be African American-owned businesses.
Maryland is the first state to require a diverse marijuana industry in law, according to Baltimore Del. Cheryl Glenn, chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus and the bill’s sponsor.
“We’re showing the rest of the country that this is absolutely something that has to be done and should be done,” she said. “When you look at nationally, less than 1 percent of the licenses are owned by people of minority.”
The bill also caps the number of licenses to process marijuana at 25, and it creates a compassionate use fund to help veterans and residents with lower incomes gain access to the drug.
Dominique Maria Bonessi contributed reporting.