Written by Pamela Wood. Originally published on The Baltimore Sun
When Maryland launched its medical cannabis industry, the first companies to nab coveted licenses for growing, processing and selling the drug were overwhelmingly white-owned.
So, state lawmakers ordered more licenses to be issued, with the goal of getting more black people and women into the industry.
But a year and a half later, those new licenses are on hold amid five lawsuits and accusations from applicants that the process was botched or biased. The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has hired contractors to identify problems in the licensing process. And state lawmakers are weighing whether to step in with another legislative fix.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors have charged the chief legislative champion for the industry, Cheryl Glenn, with wire fraud and bribery, and she has resigned her seat in the House of Delegates. Prosecutors allege the Baltimore Democrat took bribes from two companies to support legislation, including a 2018 bill that created the additional round of licenses. That’s thrown further doubt on what happens next for the fledgling industry.
William Tilburg, who recently was named executive director of the cannabis commission after serving as acting director for three months, said the commission will carefully review information that comes out in the Glenn case. He said he wasn’t aware of the federal investigation until it became public Monday.
Meanwhile, the commission is investigating claims of bias in the licensing process, while hopeful applicants wait to see what happens.
“The commission is taking seriously the concerns raised by legislators and applicants about the impartiality of the process,” Tilburg said.
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