Plan to diversify Maryland medical marijuana market might boost white firms instead

Plan to diversify Maryland medical marijuana market might boost white firms instead

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As the Maryland General Assembly advances a bill to add more black-owned firms to the medical marijuana industry, critics say the measure could aid existing licensed operations — most of which are owned by whites. (Jen Rynda / Baltimore Sun Media Group) For months, Maryland lawmakers have planned to address the lack of diversity in the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry by offering more licenses. A new round of licensing was supposed to give the black-owned firms that were all but shut out of the first round another chance to gain a foothold in the lucrative industry. But the legislation lawmakers have now come up with favors companies that already hold licenses to grow and process marijuana. Only one of the 30 licenses awarded two years ago is held by a firm owned by African-Americans. The concept, approved last week by the House of Delegates , would create 15 new licenses, but set aside four of them for companies that already hold licenses. That has puzzled and rankled black-owned firms. They expected a new round of competition that would eliminate the barriers that prevented most black firms from winning licenses the first time. Instead, leading state lawmakers chose to designate some licenses for existing winners in the market. Two marijuana growing companies owned by white men — including a top donor to Republican Gov. Larry Hogan — would be among the four to get first dibs at expanding their market share. The remaining 11 new licenses would be open to competitive bidders in a process that favors minority-owned firms. But those licenses would not be granted until at least a year later. “The whole idea of it flies in the face of free competition,” said Darryl Hill, a marijuana entrepreneur who has advocated more minority inclusion. The University of […]

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