Maryland State Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore) seeks the support of Black businesses as she plans a renewed push to change how medical marijuana licenses are distributed in Maryland.

Maryland State Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore). (Courtesy Photo)

During the Maryland Black Business Legislative Wrap-Up in Baltimore on May 9, Glenn said she planned to sponsor a new bill which would give minority-owned operations the chance to obtain one of the state’s lucrative licenses to grow medical marijuana before sales begin later this year.

Glenn, who is chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus, said the bill will be similar to one that failed in the last hours of this year’s legislative session. That bill, entitled the Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission Reform Act after Glenn’s mother who died of cancer in 2011, passed both the House of Delegates and the state Senate in April. But a conflict over amendments between the two chambers prevented a final vote on the House floor from happening.

She blames House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) for not allowing enough time for her bill to advance, saying the measure’s fate was “orchestrated crap” that was “phenomenal.”  

Currently, members of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, which oversees licenses to grow medical marijuana, are appointed by the governor and do not require approval from legislators. Glenn’s bill would remove the current commissioners and replace them with new appointees that must be approved by the legislature, in an attempt to widen access to the growing licenses.

“It will include the diversity that is long overdue in this industry,” Glenn said. “We will set an example for the rest of this country to follow.”

In April, Governor Larry Hogan (R) directed the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs to conduct a disparity study of the state’s medical marijuana industry. The governor’s office said the directive is in response to concerns expressed by Glenn’s caucus and shared by the administration.

Meanwhile, Glenn reiterated her call for a one-day special session later this year to pass her new bill. Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) has said he supports a special session provided “we have an agreement to quickly pass the bill.”

House Speaker Michael E. Busch. (D-Anne Arundel) also supports a special session “with new licenses awarded after a disparity study, as included in two bills passed by the House in the last week of session.”

Glenn said it was important for Black businesses to be involved in the medical marijuana market, referring to it as “the new oil industry.”  

“There are all kinds of businesses that will be developed as a result of growing, processing, distributing; we’re talking all kinds of businesses,” she said.  And if the disparity is not addressed with the passage of her bill in the one-day special session, she said “no African Americans would own a license until 2019.”

“Two years after White businesses are already up and running,” she added.