Blacks Locked Out Of Legal Marijuana Industry In Maryland & Many Other States

August 19, 2016  |  

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Maryland is expected to rake in some serious dough through legal marijuana starting in 2017. It has been estimated that the cannabis industry in the state could reach $60 million by 2020. And considering that the African-American/Black community makes up  30.5 percent of the population, one would assume local Black entrepreneurs will be cashing in as well. Unfortunately not.

“Maryland set up its legal medical marijuana industry with hopes of racial diversity and equity in spreading profits, but none of the 15 companies cleared this week for potentially lucrative growing licenses are led by African Americans,” reported the Washington Post.

Of course, local Black community advocates and business people are calling out Maryland officials on the license approvals. “We are not going to see this industry flourish in the state of Maryland with no minority participation,” said Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore), chairwoman of the Legislative Black Caucus. Glenn is so upset she is pondering filing a legal injunction to stop the licensing process along with other legal options.

It’s not that Black marijuana entrepreneurs didn’t apply for licenses. They did, like Darryl Hill, who says he had the qualifications. “This is a brand-new industry where 50 years of experience didn’t come into play and your granddaddy didn’t hand it down to you,” Hill,  72, told the newspaper. “But this idea of sharing the largesse didn’t really happen.”

The state seems to realize there is a major diversity problem in the new sector. According to a spokeswoman for the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, “there will be future opportunities to expand minority participation when the agency awards dispensary licenses and when it considers issuing more cultivation licenses in 2018 if supply doesn’t meet demand. Businesses must also submit annual reports on the racial breakdown of their ownership and workforce, providing a more comprehensive look at the industry’s diversity,” Washington Post reported.

“The Commission believes a diverse workforce is in the best interest of the industry,” said Vanessa Lyon, the spokeswoman.

But the issue of diversity in the marijuana industry isn’t just a concern in Maryland. In all of the states that have legalized marijuana –25 plus the District– there is a diversity problem when it comes to growers and sellers. According to an investigation by BuzzFeed, only about 1 percent of the nation’s marijuana dispensaries have Black owners. This is due in part to the fallout from the War on Drugs in which Black Americans were more likely to be charged, arrested, and convicted for drug possession, even though numerous research proved Blacks were not more likely to use or sell drugs. And since more Blacks have drug convictions those persons are not allowed to grow or sell marijuana.

“We went to Colorado and saw kids who were young white males making money growing pot,” said Ernst Valery, an African American developer in Baltimore, whose company did not receive a preliminary license. “Young black men have gone to jail for this thing. Now that population will have no connection to making money off of it legally.”

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