Racial Disparities Remain in the Cannabis Industry
ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Medical marijuana is around the corner for the people of Maryland, but a study requested by Republican Gov. Larry Hogan with a December deadline is expected to show inequality among licenses given to African-Americans.
The governor ordered the study after concerns were voiced from the Maryland Legislative Black Caucus regarding the deficiency of African-Americans in the medical marijuana industry. Almost 65 percent of all cultivation, processing and distribution licenses were given to Caucasians.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission said that at least 321 licenses were issued and 208 of them were for Caucasians with 113 being issued to minorities. Only 17 percent of the minorities were African-American.
Legislatures told the University of Maryland's Capital News Service that they are making plans to present a bill next session that will grant at least 10 licenses to African-Americans interested in starting a business.
The chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, Delegate Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) said that "It's shameful in a state like Maryland where we have one-third of the population of the state, one-third is African American." She added that they will proceed with drafting the bill no matter what the study reports in December.
The lawmakers also want to implement a compassionate use fund for patients that can’t afford their medicine because due to federal law, insurance and Medicare/Medicaid won’t pay for medical marijuana.
Maryland has had one of the slowest moving launches of medical marijuana programs in the United States, taking more than 4 years since it was legalized to be implemented.
Wendy Bronfein, the marketing director for a dispensary in Lutherville said that “I think we could see product in November with increase in December and a steady flow from all operators in the new year.” Industry investors blame the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission’s lack of funding as a reason for the slow roll-out.
Niko Mann is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles, California.