A last minute compromise that would have provided up to five medical marijuana licenses to minority companies fell apart at the last minute as Maryland House Speaker Michael Busch failed to entertain a motion that would have brought the issue to a vote.
The decisions whitewashes efforts by the Maryland Congressional Black Caucus and other minority investors who had sought to get at least one of the first 15 licenses awarded under the Natalie LaPrade Bill. The bill is designed to increase the number of medical cannabis grower licenses, requiring the Natalie LaPrade Commission grant approval to certain applicants, in what is projected to be a multi-billion dollar industry.
Several minority license owners from Prince George’s County were also shut out although former Fraternal Order of Police President Vince Canales was named head of security for one licensee. Each of the awardees were White as were the members of the Medical Marijuana Commission who made the final decision.”There is a lot of money (at stake) here, big, big money,” Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (D), who represents the county told reporters.
Negotiations for a special session are continuing although some say the political fallout for House Speaker Michael Busch, Maryland State Attorney Brian Frosh and others. Minority groups are already discussing ways to support a candidate to defeat Busch unless something is done, according to several sources intimately involved with negotiations.
Noted Baltimore attorney Billy Murphy, who had joined forces with investors from Prince Georges County, said at a press conference that the now defunct commission had missed a “grand opportunity to create generational wealth in the minority business community.
Maryland Black Caucus Chair Cheryl Glenn (D-Baltimore) made diversifying the state’s new medical marijuana industry a top priority. A tearful Glenn, who left the session extremely disappointed, fought gallantly for diversity in honor of her mother, who died before she could use the drug to alleviate her cancer symptoms.
Glenn also expressed concerns that it was unfair to disproportionately lock up Blacks under drug laws and also shut them out of profits of drug legalization.
Things fell apart primarily because with 10 minutes left members of a health committee tried to end the standout with the Senate over giving licenses to a pair of prospective marijuana growers suing state regulators. The bill didn’t come up before the house until 11:55 p.m., just five minutes before the deadline. By that time, it was too late, Republican lawmakers delayed the vote by explaining their opposition and asking questions until the clock hit midnight, when this year’s session officially ended.
Black Maryland lawmakers are now right back where they started. In a state that’s more than 30 percent Black, who are often counted on for Democratic votes, not one license was granted, which seems to be in direct violation of federal and state contracting laws.