Diversity in medical marijuana: Q&A with Maryland license applicant Greg Daniel

By John Schroyer

New York-based physician Greg Daniel is the face and voice of a Maryland lawsuit that could bring the issue of race to the forefront in marijuana business licensing.

The suit contends the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission ignored a law requiring that racial diversity be a consideration in who received MMJ cultivation permits.

Daniel, the CEO of Alternative Medicine Maryland, is part of the suit, which has resulted in a temporary restraining order that prohibits the commission from handing out the final 14 licenses.

So far, only one cultivation permit in Maryland has been finalized. Daniel’s firm was not among the 15 provisional cultivation license winners, which were announced last August, though he said Alternative Medicine Maryland did win a dispensary license.

The situation may become even more serious. A scheduled hearing Friday could culminate with a judge issuing a preliminary injunction to shut down Maryland’s MMJ licensing until the lawsuit is resolved.

Marijuana Business Daily spoke with Daniel about his ideal outcome and the continuing issue of race in the cannabis business.

What do you hope the lawsuit will achieve?

When the regulations were promulgated, they were required to consider the issue of racial diversity. Now, you’ve got a situation where thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of black people are going to jail for the use of medical marijuana.

Yet, when (licensing for) the growing, processing and dispensing of it comes up, we are nowhere to be seen anywhere in that dimension. We’re totally negated.

In the city of Baltimore, I think there are studies that show that African-Americans are three times more likely to be arrested for the use of that drug compared to their Caucasian counterparts. This kind of reminds me of slavery, where we had to pick the cotton and we had to pick the tobacco -but when it was found out that tobacco kills, it was sold in black communities.

So are we going back to that state? Or are we going to recognize that (African-Americans) need to be at the table, since we are the ones who have suffered significantly over the years?

What would you like to see happen in Maryland? Do you want to see the commission start over with the cultivation licensing process?

Some mechanism has to be implemented that recognizes that minority/African-American-owned companies are included in the process. We can look at starting the process over again. That is one possibility.

The second is adding additional licenses with a preferential recognition that minorities have to be included in a second subset of licenses. I think those are the two more prominent ideas that have been placed on the table.

There needs to be a special session (of the Legislature) in order for this to come to a resolution. And I think the process needs to be stopped until the special session is called and a resolution is agreed upon.

I think in the end (the MMJ licensing) should reflect the diversity of the population. The state of Maryland has a 30% black population, so maybe 30% of the licenses should be awarded to the minority population.

If there was a move to add more licenses, would that come from the Legislature, or is that something the commission could do on its own?

I think the commission was flawed from the inception, and because of that, the Legislature has to be the one that makes the decision and formulates the plan.

How long it will take this lawsuit to play out?

That’s totally up to the state and the Legislature.

As far as (Alternative Medicine Maryland is) concerned, we’d like to see a very quick resolution to this. And we remain open to working through the process to ensure a speedy resolution, so it’s not up to us with regards to how quickly we get to an endpoint.

Certainly, we are looking forward to the (court hearing) on June 2 regarding a more permanent injunction, but we would want to see a resolution – and this issue to be done with quickly.

It is not our intent to hamstring the process … but the issue we have before us is extremely important, and all we’re saying is we think it’s unconscionable to move the process forward without addressing this issue.

Do you think the Maryland MMJ program will work itself out? 

I think it’ll work itself out in time. But once it works itself out, I think it’ll be a model for the rest of the country, vis-a-vis diversity issues. It’s an issue that’s going to come up time and time again as different states move to legalize. And one day – even at the federal level, when this gets addressed – this issue is going to come up.

We need to, as minorities, take a stand and say: We’re not going to be left out of the process.

Do you think more state and local governments need to take minority businesses more into account in the licensing process?

I think they should. One of the major issues facing America as a country is the inequality that has flowed throughout the various business models that have been developed over the decades, and we are being told as minorities that we’re required to be as wealthy as our counterparts in our ability to achieve success.

If that’s the case, then there needs to be a level playing field, and right now the playing field is not level.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

12 comments on “Diversity in medical marijuana: Q&A with Maryland license applicant Greg Daniel
  1. Janet on

    You should be ashamed of yourself Dr. Daniel. This isn’t about inequality or about easing the black people’s suffering. It is about money. In my opinion, people of all colors are suffering and unable to get the medicine they need because of your selfishness.

    Reply
    • Franklin George on

      You’re absolutely right it’s about money. Money is the reason why minority owned groups have been totally exempt from participating in this new line of business.

      Reply
    • Ozie on

      No its not about money. Its about stolen opportunity through systematic entrenched racism. And I applaud Dr. Daniel for standing up to put a stop to it. The only time white supremacist minded people like yourself bring up money is when it comes to sharing economic opportunity with traditionally oppressed groups of people.

      And stop pretending like you give a damn about the “suffering of black people”. If you really cared that much you would have done something about it long before the legalization of medical marijuana became a reality.

      Reply
  2. Anne Absalom on

    The lack of minority representation is important and needs to be corrected. As a white woman, I do not feel I count as a minority in this process. This is about race, economic equality and justice. It’s a chance to acknowledge that Black Maryland Citizens have been impacted more significantly by current marijuana laws. This is a critical issue which needs to be addressed prior to any final approval of more licenses. The grow and processing licenses allow economic freedom and opportunities to a far greater extent than the dispensary licenses.
    There is a second, and equally important consideration here. Why should out of State companies be allowed licenses ahead of Maryland residents? How much will an out of State owner care about our well-being? I say keep Maryland opportunity for residents and address the lack of minority ownership. I agree that Maryland is being watched by the rest of The Country, so let’s get this right.

    Reply
  3. real minority on

    Very interesting that in the seven years I have been testifying in Maryland that Mr. Daniels has not once shown his face to help with rule promulgation or the law. He is a shield for a Canadian company being used as a figurehead. To think that this Doctor Who took a Hippocratic oath to do no harm would try to chase money while people will literally die due to the holdup can still be a doctor is absolutely insane. His medical license should be revoked. To the woman who does not consider herself a minority, she must be forgetting history where she also would not have had the right to vote, does not earn equally, and is still discriminated against. She must be working with him. As part of a well diversified group of minorities, my group also did not win. Statistically only six majority minority owner groups applied out of nearly 150. Do the math and you will see that it would have been very hard for one of those groups to gain a license. The commission allowed applicants with virtually no cost to apply, no land for operation, and no current investment to be considered for licensing. This means that every facet of life had a fair chance. Just because Mr. Daniels is a poor loser does not justify allowing patients to continue to suffer. Apparently Mr. Daniels did not read the application in which he signed off stating the commission regardless of any scoring could choose the final licensees. The definition of minority has no color. To think differently is completely racist. Mr. Daniels I hope that you never ever enter this industry and I will do everything I can to make sure you are never supported for any reason. You are an out of stater, stay away we don’t want you.

    Reply
    • Anne Absalom on

      As the white woman you spoke about, I have no connection to Dr Daniels. If you read my comment completely, you will see that I do not want to see any out of State investors including Dr Daniels given a Maryland license. Since you don’t use your name, it’s hard to know why you would feel qualified to tell me how to self identify. The Commission is counting licenses given to white woman headed companies to boost the minority numbers. As I said in my original comment, this is about race, not gender. White Privilege is alive and well, so let’s get real here.

      Reply
    • Ozie on

      When you say “minority” do you mean black? I don’t like these little word games that people play since “minorities” were never enslaved in this country, they were never considered 3/5 of a human being, they were never lynched or systematically shut out of economic opportunities in this country. It was black people who suffered these atrocities not “minorities”. And for you to come on here and systematically attack a black man for standing up for what is right I have to assume you have your own nefarious agenda. Whatever you think of the Maryland licensing process my hope is his lawsuit sets a precedent that will affect other states when setting their licensing agendas. Descendants of slaves need to be included and well represented when handing out these licenses.
      .

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  4. James Welk on

    I’m sure Mr. Daniels will have much more success applying in Pennsylvania, which also allows out-of-state opportunists and has an application that explicitly provisions 1/10 of the score for “Diversity.” PA Medical Marijuana Watch covers this in more detail… https://pammjwatch.wordpress.com/2017/05/18/and-your-diversity-score-is/

    Remember Dr. King’s dream? “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation WHERE THEY WILL NOT BE JUDGED BY THE COLOR OF THEIR SKIN, BUT BY THE CONTENT OF THEIR CHARACTER.”

    Just because a permit holder isn’t part of an oppressed group doesn’t mean that the oppressed group will somehow miss out on the benefits of the new industry. There will be plenty of jobs, contracting opportunities, medicine for sick people, on and on.

    Opportunities are for everyone in America. The law of the land declares, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

    Mr. Daniels seems to think that this only applies to HIS group. The fact that he even suggested an allotment of permits for his special group, regardless of the merits that they put forth, is shameful. Sadly, this sort of frivolous litigation scares State governments into surreptitiously implementing discriminatory quotas to avoid the negative attention. It puts everyone on the defensive, all because of a sore loser.

    Reply
  5. Frustrated on

    Could not agree more with the “real minority” post above. All this is doing is keeping medicine out of the hands of patients who have been desperately waiting. Some who are running out of time.
    I sat in a waiting room of patients who were applying to get their medical cards. There was a young woman in the room with me who has cancer. She is clearly near the end of her life. Next to her stood her 4 yr old daughter. This poor woman was visibly in so much pain just sitting in her wheelchair as oxygen pumped into her lungs. My heart broke for her thinking how much she must wish she could spend whatever days she has left being comfortable, being present, and enjoying her daughter. Medical Marijuana could give her this gift where traditional pain medicines can not.
    Mr. Daniels you are taking this possibility away from thousands of people by pushing your agenda. What you are doing is wrong. There is a better way of getting your message heard without punishing the thousands of people who keep thinking their suffering is almost over only to have you push it further away.
    Mr. Daniels, you say that, “African-American’s are 3x more likely to be arrested then whites.”
    Well you have just prolonged the danger for all of the African-Americans (and every other race) that are currently using illegal cannabis to end up in jail. Breaking the law is breaking the law no matter what your nationally. We have a chance of changing that. The MD MMJ program has been halted by you. Maybe you need to think long and hard about what is more important at this point.

    Reply
  6. A Dispensary Applicant on

    This is a one-sided view of the issue. The process was blind, with all applicant data redacted. Dr. Daniels did win a dispensary in District 32, which he didn’t disclose in this article, but rather made it seem like it was all about race. Perhaps if he wrote a better proposal for a cultivation license this would not have been an issue.

    Reply
  7. Maryland Cannabis Patients on

    Greg, your claim that there isn’t diversity in the Maryland program is completely false. The facts show 35% diversity in ownership and even higher numbers expected in employees: http://mmcc.maryland.gov/Pages/current-diversity-statistics.aspx

    The racial and ethnic diversity clause in the Maryland law was not only for black people but all minorities in the state. Your lawsuit is simply sour grapes from a company that didn’t even rank in the top 60 much less the top 15. The patients are the ones being harmed here by another delay due to your frivolous lawsuit. Your company lost by turning in a poor quality application and the winners won on the merits of their plan and expertise. You don’t deserve a license simply because you have one black owner. You aren’t even from Maryland.

    Reply
  8. Lisel on

    This Marijuana commission is destined to fail. Patrick Jameson has no clue what he is doing, he recently hired another six figure tax payer salaried scientist to make sure the marijuana is tested by real labs. He had no clue this was even necessary until about two months ago. The next administration will end this fruitless project regardless of political party.

    Reply

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