The Maryland House of Delegates passed legislation on Tuesday that would allow the state to issue five more licenses above what current law allows for growing and processing medicinal marijuana, specifically designed to make pot providers more diverse.
“The bill, which was passed on a 90-45 vote, is aimed at boosting minority-owned business participation in the state’s developing industry after a disparity study,” the Associated Press reported. “The vote sends the measure to the Senate, which is considering a separate bill.”
Del. Cheryl Glenn, a Democrat, chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland and sponsor of the House bill, was critical of a state commission’s picking finalists for 30 licenses — 15 for growing and 15 for processing — last year that “lack minority ownership.”
“Passing this bill will show the country that this is not an issue that we’re going lock African Americans and other minorities from participating in this business venture,” Glenn said on the House floor before the vote. “Less than one percent of the licenses held in the entire country are held by African Americans and other minorities.”
AP noted that no final decisions have been made on any licenses and that the state commission also has named finalists for 102 marijuana dispensaries.
Maryland lawmakers passed legislation to allow medical marijuana production in 2013, but limited it to academic medical centers and none came forward, according to AP.
Earlier this year the cannabis industry research and lobbying group, Washington DC-based New Frontier Data, used data from the Barack Obama Labor Department to claim legal medicinal and recreational pot would create 300,000 jobs over the next three years.
The NFD report said the industry’s biggest growth would come from legalized adult recreational marijuana use in states like New York, Illinois, and Maryland.