Maryland sets social equity eligibility criteria for adult-use cannabis licenses

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Maryland regulators released the guidelines for social equity applicant eligibility and information for an online verification portal in preparation for the upcoming adult-use cannabis business licensing application window.

Based on data from three state agencies, social equity applicants seeking cannabis business licenses in Maryland must control at least a 65% interest in the company and meet one of the following criteria:

  • Lived in a disproportionately impacted area for at least five of the past 10 years.
  • Attended a public school in a disproportionately impacted area for at least five years.
  • Spent at least two years at a four-year college or university in Maryland where at least 40% of enrollees received a Pell Grant.

The third stipulation includes the University of Baltimore, Bowie State University, Coppin State University, Morgan State University, the University of Maryland, Eastern Shore and Washington Adventist University.

The Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA), a new agency established to regulate medical and adult-use marijuana, will administer the social equity verification and license application process.

“This forward-looking measure underscores our dedication to rectifying past injustices and ensuring a level playing field,” Audrey Johnson, executive director of the Office of Social Equity, said in a statement released Saturday.

“I affirm that by facilitating equal opportunities, we reshape the cannabis industry’s narrative, enabling marginalized voices to craft a future that’s rich in diversity and vitality.”

The MCA on Saturday also announced the creation of the Social Equity Verification Portal to assist prospective applicants with confirming their social equity status before the recreational license application round opens later this year.

The portal is scheduled to launch Sept. 8 and will remain open for 60 days, closing on Nov. 7.

The first round of licensing for standard and micro cannabis growers, processors and retailers will be exclusive to social equity applicants.

Similar to Missouri, Maryland’s limited-license market launched adult-use retail sales in 2023 with nearly every existing medical marijuana dispensary, cultivator and processor converting their licenses to serve recreational customers.

And also like Missouri’s, the adult-use market in Maryland opened with no social equity license holders – a rarity compared to other markets, most notably New York, which pinned its entire launch on social equity operators.

Under Maryland law, the first batch of new adult-use licenses must be awarded before Jan. 1, 2024.