By George Kevin Jordan, AFRO Staff Writer

Next month people looking to leap into the growing cannabis enterprise may get a chance thanks to Uplift Maryland, a community based one stop information hub, that will offer extensive free training on the industry.

The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (MMCC) awarded Uplift Maryland a grant of up to $45,000  to “provide training and assistance to small, minority and women business owners and entrepreneurs seeking to become licensed in the medical cannabis industry in the State, according to the website. The sessions will be a combination of online courses and in-person classes beginning February 2nd and culminating March 30th.

Uplift Maryland is helping those interested in the cannabis industry to learn about how to get licenses and start their businesses. (Courtesy Photo)

Uplift Maryland’s Founder Kevin Ford, 29, has been on the forefront of the Cannabis industry in Maryland and nationally, and saw the perfect window to address a need in the DMV.

“I’ve been an advocate for for about ten years now,” Ford said. “It’s a great opportunity to partner my skills with business development and cannabis and to give back to our community especially with an emerging market coming up.”

He incorporated his Uplift Maryland in August 2018, after seeing so many people wanting to get involved in the industry.

The MMCC grant program was tailored to interested individuals who were interested in achieving one of the grower, processor licenses, Ford said. However the number of licenses granted in Maryland are limited. So Ford is looking to provide a wider scope of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“Were interested in giving people additional opportunities that may not be a licensee but what can licenses use support on, like transportation, security, delivery services,” Ford said,  “and helping them structure themselves in a business format so they can success on that front.”

Already more than 100 people have signed up for the program at Uplift, Ford said.

According to the the MMCC website: “​{The Natalie M. LaPrade Medical Cannabis Commission Reform Act (the “Act”), Chapter 598 of the Acts of 2018}, authorizes the MMCC to issue a limited number of additional licenses to grow and process medical cannabis in Maryland. The MMCC anticipates that up to four (4) additional grower licenses and ten (10) additional processor licenses will be available.” The application submission process runs from March 1 to April 30.

Creating strong businesses in the cannabis industry is also about breaking down stereotypes in connection with marijuana.

“Being that African Americans have been heavily displaced by the war on drugs has caused such a negative perception of cannabis in our community,” Ford said. “Some patients who could truly benefit from cannabis refuse to sign up because they think their doing hard drugs.”

“Our goal at the end of the program is to get as many people as we can to go and register a business,” Ford said. “We want to have as many folks as we can register a business, apply for a license and the ultimate goal is to win a license.”

“We’re really preparing folks for the future,” Ford said. “The long term is to take these companies we helped start and help them develop auxiliary businesses within this industry.”

The Maryland General Assembly passed a law legalizing medical marijuana use four years ago.

The Congressional Black Caucus has also pushed to make sure that marginalized groups are not forgotten as the cannabis market become a viable industry.

“Some of the same folks who told African Americans ‘three strikes and you’re out’ when it came to marijuana use and distribution, are now in support of decriminalizing the drug and making a profit off of it,” former CBC Chairman Cedric L. Richmond (D-LA-02) said in a statement in June. “The Congressional Black Caucus supports decriminalizing marijuana and investing in communities that were destroyed by the War on Drugs – which, in addition to be a failed war, was a war on black and brown communities. We also support expunging the records of those previously convicted of misdemeanors for marijuana-related offenses.”

For more information on the program and to register please go to the Uplift Maryland website.