Alternative Medicine Maryland, a medical marijuana company, asked Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams to forbid the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission from issuing any final licenses to grow the drug due to a lack of diversity among the 15 companies that won initial approval. None of the 15 companies are led by African-Americans, who make up at least a third of the state’s population, nor was any attempt made to satisfy the requirement for racial diversity throughout the licensing process.
The state law that legalized medical marijuana explicitly states the commission must “actively seek” racial diversity when selecting growers and distributors for approval. As such, their failure to use a race-conscious application process is in direct violation of this law.
“They literally did nothing to follow the law the legislature said they had to follow,” said Brian S. Brown, managing member at Brown & Barron, LLC, and attorney for Alternative Medicine Maryland, which is one of three companies currently suing the state commission for its failings and is led by an African-American. “This case is not about money and power. It is about allowing all people to have the opportunity to participate in providing medicine to people as quickly as possible,” Brown stated.
To investigate whether or not minority companies are facing a disadvantage in the medical marijuana industry, Governor Larry Hogan issued an executive order asking for a disparity study. Other legislative leaders are considering recalling lawmakers to Annapolis to devise a way to increase diversity among medical marijuana growers. While no one wants to keep this drug out of the hands of patients who need it much longer, this is a delay many believe is necessary to ensure that everyone has a fair shot to participate in this industry.
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