Just yesterday, a Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry Williams, put a temporary restraining order on Maryland’s medical marijuana industry after a company asserted the state regulators illegally ignored racial diversity when picking firms to grow the drug. None of the 15 companies granted preliminary approval to grow medical marijuana are led by African Americans.
Judge Williams stated the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is not allowed to grant any additional marijuana licenses for 10 days. He will decide after a June 2 hearing whether to extend the ban until the conclusion of a lawsuit that requests the entire application process begins again.
Patients, regulators, and marijuana firms have been watching the situation closely, as it has the potential to derail the whole industry before it even has a chance to start.
The judge ruled the 15 preliminary licenses to grow the drug might have been awarded in a way that was potentially unconstitutional and capricious. The lawyer representing the commission, Attorney General Heather Nelson, argued in court that the law never expressly required racial diversity to be a selection criterium, and merely by advertising the program, it satisfied the requirement to seek diversity.
The lack of minority participation in the industry has been criticized by the General Assembly’s Legislative Black Caucus and was the subject of failed legislation during the 2017 session. They are pressing for a special session this summer to pass a law that would create five licenses for minority-owned growing businesses. Likewise, this April, Governor Larry Hogan ordered a racial disparity study of the state’s medical cannabis industry.
One of our founding attorneys, Brian S. Brown, is representing Alternative Medicine Maryland in the lawsuit against the commission. Two weeks ago, he filed the motion that set this legal battle in motion. Alternative Medicine Maryland is led by an African American doctor from New York and was not ranked by the cannabis commission among the top 15 companies applying for a growing license. It is one of three companies suing the state commission, citing failings. The two other companies, MD Cultivation and Processing in Frederick County and GTI Maryland in Washington County, filed suits when they were removed from the list of the original 15 companies that received preliminary approval.
The judge’s order currently doesn’t affect ForwardGro, a company based in Stevensonville. That company’s license was approved nearly 10 days ago and can begin selling medical marijuana. Attorney Brown has indicated the company he represents does not want to delay the larger industry with the lawsuit, and he hopes the situation is resolved quickly.
For more information about the case, or to begin your own civil rights lawsuit, don’t hesitate to contact us. Brown & Barron, LLC is a civil justice law firm dedicated to providing the best legal advocacy to people seeking justice. Our attorneys have all chosen to work on behalf of individuals who are often the most vulnerable, including children and the elderly, who have been hurt by the negligent actions of big businesses or influential people. Let us see what we can do for your case. Contact us at (410) 698-1717 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation.