Maryland is taking a leap towards becoming a leader in the cannabis legalization movement. This month, the state took the key step of establishing criteria that determines the social equity eligibility of adult-use cannabis licenses. For consumers and businesses alike, this move will usher in a new era of legalized cannabis in Maryland that not only cuts down on black market activity, but also puts an emphasis on creating a fair and equitable industry.
1. Maryland Levels the Cannabis Licensing Playing Field
Hold That Thought: Maryland legislators saw an opportunity to inject new life into the state’s cannabis industry and took an unprecedented step: allowing multiple entities to oversee the granting of cannabis licenses. This move highlights the commitment of state leaders to ensure fair access throughout the marijuana licensing process.
- The Maryland Cannabis Venture Fund (MCVF) was established to support equity applicants.
- The MCVF provides grant funding to qualifying applicants to cover expenses associated with obtaining licensure.
- The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has the power to grant licenses to not just one but several entities.
With this initiative, Maryland legislators have demonstrated a commitment to fostering equity and creating a level playing field. By empowering multiple entities with the authority to grant licenses, it is no longer a one-trick pony; members of the cannabis industry now possess more viability and sustainable opportunities. The move reflects the state’s desire to promote diversity in the marijuana sector and to create a fairer market.
2. Social Equity Eligibility Criteria For Maryland’s Adult-Use Cannabis Licenses
With the Maryland medical marijuana program running strong, the state is now preparing for the adult-use cannabis launch by 2021. A key awareness-raising effort in this preparation will be educating applicants on the social equity criteria for cannabis licenses. Social equity is all about encouraging people who’ve been affected by the war on drugs to be involved in the industry.
These eligibility criteria are extensive and complex. It’s important for Maryland to have applicants do their due diligence in researching and understanding these in order to pursue a license. To simplify things, here’s what potential applicants need to know:
- Proof of residency – To qualify you need to have lived in Maryland for at least three out of the past five years.
- Economically disadvantaged – The applicant must have income that’s no more than 400% of the federal poverty level.
- Criminal record – An eligible person cannot have been convicted of any felony or violation of drug laws for the past 10 years.
- Business ownership – The applicant must be from a qualifying cohort, such as a service-disabled veteran, minorities, and women.
The aim of the social equity eligibility criteria is to ensure a diverse, responsible and inclusive industry where people from all backgrounds can thrive. It’s an historic opportunity for many to play a role in the legal cannabis industry, and one that will be well worth the effort.
3. Unparalleled Opportunities For Minority Cannabis Entrepreneurs
2020 has seen a great increase in cannabis financial opportunities for minorities. Despite the many hurdles, it offers new business opportunities to those traditionally excluded from the legal market. Here are a few of the opportunities available:
- Grants & Loans: Increasingly, governments, nonprofits, venture capitalists, banks, and other entities are offering grants and loans to minority cannabis entrepreneurs for seed capital and expansion. Every application has its own criteria so research is key!
- Investment Partnerships: Many minority-owned cannabis businesses are partnering with larger, established cannabis businesses to access the capital necessary to scale. This presents a great opportunity for both sides of the partnership.
- Accelerators & Incubators: There are now a variety of cannabis accelerators and incubators that are created specifically to help minority-owned cannabis businesses thrive. Programs like the‘Minorities for Medical Marijuana’ (M4MM) and the ‘Cannabis Accelerator Program’ (CAP) are two such examples.
These opportunities are giving minority cannabis entrepreneurs the opportunity to tap into valuable resources that may not have been available before. The results are encouraging as many minority entrepreneurs slowy steady move towards success.
4. A Historic Step Forward For Cannabis Equity in Maryland
In November 2020, the people of Maryland voted overwhelming in favor of Question 1, securing the state as one of the most progressive places for cannabis reform in the nation. Once implemented, Question 1 will erase past marijuana convictions, provide those convicted with a simplified expungement process, and provide assistance to those affected by the War on Drugs.
Operators are also set to benefit from this historic milestone. This legislation will allow licenses for growing and selling marijuana to be awarded to person seeking licensure who have experienced disproportionate harm or have been disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. Speaking to the bill’s significance, Maryland Governor Larry Hogan stated, “This is a historic moment in Maryland. The expungement of minor marijuana convictions provides an opportunity for many to move past mistakes in the past and qualify for career-advancing opportunities they wouldn’t have previously had”.
- Certain marijuana convictions will be automatically expunged
- Retroactive licenses will be granted to those seeking licensure who have been impacted by the War on Drugs
- Will create career-advancing opportunities
The task may have been daunting, but Maryland is now officially on the right track to ensuring cannabis businesses will be owned by those who have long faced the brunt of the war on drugs. With the completion of its social equity criteria, and the subsequent set of adult-use cannabis licenses, Maryland is showing the nation why it’s a leader in progressive cannabis reform.