Complaints of Impropriety Halt Medical Cannabis in Md.

ANNAPOLIS — Claims of impropriety and unfairness caused a Maryland committee to not award applicants who sought inclusion in the medical cannabis industry.

A decision scheduled last week from the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission pauses an effort for diversity to include Black representation in the multimillion-dollar industry.

The commission planned to award 10 processors and four growers amongst 200 applications before it disbands Tuesday, Oct. 1 with replacement members.

The disbandment became in effect after a disparity study showed the industry lacked minority representation, which forced state lawmakers put in legislation last year to ensure more minority and women-owned businesses in the cannabis industry. Former Executive Director Joy A. Strand announced her resignation last month and her last day will be Tuesday.

Dozens attend the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission meeting in Annapolis on Sept. 26. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)
Dozens attend the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission meeting in Annapolis on Sept. 26. (William J. Ford/The Washington Informer)

“From the phone calls we have received, there seems to be some impropriety going on that we want to make sure that everything is legit,” Del. Darryl Barnes (D-District 25) of Upper Marlboro said to reporters Thursday, Sept. 26 after the commission’s announcement in Annapolis. “I have too many African Americans who worked extremely hard, put in a whole lot of money [and] for them not to have an opportunity doesn’t sit well with me.”

Barnes, who chairs the state’s Legislative Black Caucus, sent a letter dated Sept. 25 to commission chair Brian Lopez asking “for a delay in assigning” because of “significant issues and concerns raised about the process being used to determine winners and losers for these new licenses.”

Later that same day, a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge ordered the commission to not announce any awards for preapproval licenses based on a lawsuit filed by Remileaf.

According to the complaint, the judge ruled the state couldn’t grant any licenses until Monday, Oct. 7, pending a hearing on the case.

On Thursday, Lopez didn’t say how long it would take to award winners and didn’t mention the judge’s restraining order during the commission session.

“It’s been determined more time is need to review,” he said. “We are going to make sure we have good, quality applications.”

Barnes and Del. Cheryl Glenn said they don’t know if any of the applicants affected are Black and weren’t going to assign blame, but they did receive complaints that the process didn’t seem fair. There’s an allegation some companies that sought licenses in Maryland reside out of state.

“We made it clear that Maryland state residency meant something,” Glenn said. The legislation approved last year “was not for the purposes of expanding the footprint to hedge fund companies out of Maryland and even out of the country.”

Meanwhile, some prospective applicants now sit in limbo.

Although relieved more research will be done to assess the application process, prospective applicants such as Jacquie Cohen Roth of Annapolis are still frustrated the process could be flawed, especially not knowing how they scored on the application.

“It would be good to know. Heck, we have the right to now,” said Roth, who owns CannabizMD and applied for both a processor and grower licenses.

Keith Ford Jr., who owns a cannabis company called Uplift and also applied for both licenses, expressed optimism he will open a business in Prince George’s County.

“Our goal is really to train our community for the future economy [and] for the future industry that is here,” Ford, 29, said. “We’re here and it’s on us to … make sure we do everything that we can do to put ourselves in the best position.”

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William J. Ford – Washington Informer Staff Writer

I decided I wanted to become a better writer while attending Bowie State University and figured that writing for the school newspaper would help. I’m not sure how much it helped, but I enjoyed it so much I decided to keep on doing it, which I still thoroughly enjoy 20 years later. If I weren’t a journalist, I would coach youth basketball. Actually, I still play basketball, or at least try to play, once a week. My kryptonite is peanut butter. What makes me happy – seeing my son and two godchildren grow up. On the other hand, a bad call made by an official during a football or basketball game makes me throw up my hands and scream. Favorite foods include pancakes and scrambled eggs which I could eat 24-7. The strangest thing that’s ever happened to me, or more accurately the most painful, was when I was hit by a car on Lancaster Avenue in Philadelphia. If I had the power or money to change the world, I’d make sure everyone had three meals a day. And while I don’t have a motto or favorite quote, I continue to laugh which keeps me from driving myself crazy. You can reach me several ways: Twitter @jabariwill, Instagram will_iam.ford2281 or e-mail, wford@washingtoninformer.com

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