MD’s failed marijuana diversity bill spurs call for special session

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Black lawmakers in Maryland are calling for a special session of the legislature after the failure of a bill designed to mandate racial diversity in the ownership of the businesses that will participate in the state’s new medical marijuana industry.

The legislation would have added seven more licenses to cultivate cannabis, on top of the 15 already allowed. Five would have created diversity ownership, and two would have gone to companies that are suing the state for being removed from the list of 15 finalists based on a need to increase geographic diversity.

The failure of the MMJ diversity bill drew the ire of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland, which includes 50 of the legislature’s 188 members.

If the caucus’ complaints are heeded, Republican Gov. Larry Hogan could call a special session of the legislature, or Maryland lawmakers could petition Hogan to call a special session – if a majority of members in the House and Senate agree to do so.

House Speaker Michael Busch called on the state’s MMJ commission not to issue any new licenses until the issue is resolved.

Diversity ownership issues are not new to the marijuana industry. Some markets – including Ohio, Pennsylvania and Oakland, California – have included racial diversity requirements in the licensing process.

– Associated Press