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Judge Temporarily Halts Maryland’s Medical Marijuana Program Over Racial Diversity Questions

While the state was supposed to seek diversity when awarding licenses, the first 15 permits were handed to white folks. Circuit Judge Barry Williams wants to take another look.

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It’s taken four years for Maryland’s Medical Cannabis Commission to award final permits and licenses to actually get the MMJ program off the ground, and now, just weeks after the state’s first licensed grower was awarded his final paperwork, the program has been temporarily halted by a judge who is unconvinced the Commission did their due diligence when it comes to seeking racial diversity.  

According to the Baltimore Sun, a new ruling from Circuit Judge Barry Williams has restricted the Commission from handing out any more cultivation licenses for at least 10 days, and possibly longer.

The temporary kibosh stems from a petition from the people behind Alternative Medicine Maryland, a minority-owned company that was passed up for licensing by the Maryland Commission. The petition claimed that the lack of diversity considerations was potentially unconstitutional, and should lead to a complete refresh of the licensing process.

"Time is of the essence," the petition read. "It is undisputed that the commission made no attempt to ... actively seek racial and ethnic diversity throughout the licensing process."

For now, Alternative Medicine Maryland’s wish has been granted. Judge Williams will make another ruling on June 2nd and decide the final fate of the fledgling industry. So far the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has only awarded one final license that allows marijuana cultivation, and that company, FowardGro, will be allowed to continue their operation during the 10-day stoppage. 

Still, ForwardGro will have to plead their case to a court as to why they should be allowed to continue their operation.

A state law requires the commission to "actively seek to achieve racial, ethnic and geographic diversity when licensing medical cannabis growers." 

None of the state’s first 15 licensed medical marijuana companies have minority ownership, and if Judge Williams sides with Alternative Medicine Maryland, the entire permitting process could be wiped clean and reset.