Probe clears Maryland medical marijuana licensing of bias

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An inquiry into Maryland’s 2019 medical marijuana licensing process found “no evidence of bias or undue influence,” according to a 40-page investigative report released last week.

The licensing round, which was designed to expand minority participation in the state’s MMJ program through four cultivation and 10 processing licenses, spurred allegations of racial bias, lack of transparency and improper influence.

But a six-month investigation led by former Baltimore City state attorney Gregg Bernstein found that a number of the allegations weren’t true, according to Maryland Matters, a nonprofit that covers Maryland politics.

“We did find evidence of conflicts of interest, in that MSU (Morgan State University) employees and officials were affiliated with license applicants, but we found no evidence that these conflicts resulted in any bias or special favorable treatment in the license application review process,” according to the investigative report, which was released Thursday.

The report didn’t investigate the evaluation or scoring criteria, or the accuracy of applicants’ representations about minority ownership.

It’s unclear what will happen next. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is expected to review the findings at its Oct. 1 meeting, according to Maryland Matters.

One minority group remains in litigation with the state over the application process. One of the group’s minority owners told Marijuana Business Daily recently that she believes that there are systemic barriers to African-Americans trying to break into the cannabis industry.

Separately, a former Maryland state lawmaker recently was sentenced to two years in prison for taking bribes for legislative favors including votes that benefited a medical cannabis company.