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Lawmakers Move Forward On Marijuana Dispensaries Despite Racial Tensions

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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Officials will choose the finalists for preliminary marijuana dispensary licenses in Maryland Monday despite charges that the proceedings are racist.

The state’s medical marijuana panel will grant up to 109 licenses to create retail dispensaries in Maryland. Competition is fierce between cannabis businesses vying for the licenses, but some lawmakers want to scrap the current process and start over, claiming the proceedings have a racial bias. None of the 15 companies given preliminary approval in August to grow medical marijuana are run by black executives and critics say this proves that the black community is underrepresented in the marijuana industry, reports The Washington Post.

The chair of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, Del. Cheryl Glenn, previously appealed to the commission to stop the licensing process until the alleged racial discrepancies can be sorted out. The commission declined to halt the process and said accusations of racial bias are “premature.”

“The Commission believes it is in the best interest of sick people to move the pre-approval process forward, however, the Commission is committed to working with the legislature on these complex issues,” Vanessa Lyon, a spokesman for the Commission, told The Washington Post.

Glenn is not giving up and is pushing for a bill that rescinds all licenses already granted. One marijuana company is already suing the Commission on the grounds of racial discrimination after their company, whose majority ownership is black, was not granted a preliminary license. Officials sent applications for marijuana licenses to a third party organization for review.

The Commission will make their final decisions based on a blind review. Officials will pick the companies based on merit and will not know the identity of the applicant they are choosing. The Commission plans to release the names of the finalists Dec. 9.

Applicants came from a diverse body, including former DEA agents, lawmakers, police officers, sheriffs and even a priest. Maryland’s legal framework for medical marijuana could add $60 million annually to the state’s revenue by 2020.

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