The Maryland Cannabis Commission announced Monday it will hire a consultant to review what steps — if any — it could take to improve diversity in the state’s nascent medical marijuana industry.
Among other tasks, the consultant will determine if it is feasible to conduct a study documenting whether minorities have been unfairly excluded from the industry as a whole — a key step to legally awarding medical marijuana licenses based on racial criteria.
The announcement follows calls from African-American lawmakers in the General Assembly to halt the licensing process entirely because nearly all firms that have won preliminary licenses so far are owned by white men. It also comes after a lawsuit alleged the commission improperly ignored race when evaluating applicants. A state law required the commission to “actively seek to achieve” racial diversity.
The commission has said it followed the advice of the Maryland Attorney General when it did not include race-based selection criteria in applications since it is unconstitutional to do so without a disparity study. [Read more at Baltimore Sun]