As more states move towards legalizing marijuana and more people enter the lucrative market to become suppliers many are questioning efforts to diversify the ranks.
And now Maryland is at the center of a brewing controversy.
There’s been an alarming lack of diversity in Maryland’s medical marijuana industry and African-American business owners are still on the losing end of an opportunity to win licenses and open dispensaries after lawmakers created a plan to award white business owners who are already leading the pack, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Maryland lawmakers reportedly shut out black-owned firms in a new round of licensing that would have given them a chance to gain a foothold in the booming medical marijuana industry.
Instead the legislation reportedly supports white-owned companies and would create 15 new licenses—but four of those licenses will be set aside for white-owned companies that already hold licenses. Five of the licenses are for growing the drug and 10 for processing it into products such as oils or vapor cartridges.
The concept was approved last week by the House of Delegates and is being questioned by black-owned firms who expected more parity that would eliminate the barriers that prevented most black firms from winning licenses the first time.
“The whole idea of it flies in the face of free competition,” said Darryl Hill to the Baltimore Sun, a marijuana entrepreneur who has advocated for more minority inclusion.
Hill has been a staunch advocate of helping minority firms break barriers in business. He owns the company, Tilstar, and already has a license to sell the drug to consumers in a retail setting. But Hill hoped to get a license for the wholesale end of the market, to grow and process marijuana.
Two years ago, only one of the 30 licenses awarded was held by a firm owned by African-Americans.
The remaining 11 new licenses would be open to minority-owned firms in a competitive bidding process. But those licenses would not be granted until at least a year later. Owners would be able to grow, process or dispense marijuana and that’s the lure the licenses have and why they’re so competitive.
Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, the Baltimore Democrat who chairs the Legislative Black Caucus, reportedly said it is possible under the current proposal that no African-Americans would win the new licenses.