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Hogan, black caucus discuss cannabis industry diversity

Governor and black caucus leaders to meet on Thursday to discuss medical cannabis.

Gov. Larry Hogan promised Thursday to work with black lawmakers on the lack of diversity in Maryland's new medical cannabis industry, but he stopped short of committing to any specific solution.

Hogan and leaders of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland met at the State House in Annapolis on Thursday afternoon.

"Multiple topics were covered including the lack of diversity in the recent awarding of provisional licenses by the Cannabis Commission," Hogan spokesman Douglass Mayer said in a statement. "While the governor's office has no role in this selection process, Governor Hogan made it clear that he shares their concerns and would work with them on possible solutions going forward."

Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, chairwoman of the black caucus, said she suggested the governor consider calling a special session of the General Assembly to update the medical cannabis laws or issue an executive order.

"We made it clear that this is not something we want to wait until next session to remedy. We want to fix this mess immediately," said Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat.

Glenn said Hogan tasked two of his top aides to further investigate the issue.

"Of course I would have liked a firm commitment, but I really didn't expect that," Glenn said.

Earlier this month, the state's medical cannabis commission awarded 15 preliminary licenses to grow the drug and 15 preliminary licenses to process it into pills, extracts and other products.

More than 100 companies had applied for licenses in each category. The black caucus, a cannabis industry group and some companies that did not receive licenses have complained that not enough companies led by minorities or women were selected.

While the law legalizing medical use of cannabis said there should be racial and geographic diversity in the program. the commission decided not to use race as a factor in making decisions. The commission relied on advice from the Office of the Attorney General that race can't be a determining factor if there hasn't been a pattern of past discrimination.

The commission forwarded the applications, with identifying information removed, to Towson University's Regional Economic Studies Institute, which evaluated and ranked the proposals. The commission voted on the licenses based on the RESI evaluation.

The commission has not yet awarded licenses for dozens of dispensaries for medical cannabis.

pwood@baltsun.com

twitter.com/pwoodreporter

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