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Maryland’s Black Caucus Will ‘Take a Knee’ if Medical Marijuana Equity Expansion Isn’t Passed

With no African-Americans awarded any of the state’s first 15 medical marijuana licenses, Maryland’s Black Legislative Caucus is evoking the imagery of Colin Kaepernick’s fight for equality.

by Zach Harris

The war of words between Donald Trump and black NFL players carrying on the legacy of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick came to a head again this weekend, with huge swaths of the league kneeling before or during the national anthem to protest racial inequality and the unprovoked murder of black people at the hands of police. Now, in their fight for equality in the state’s burgeoning medical marijuana industry, the Maryland legislature’s Black Caucus has suggested that they will “take a knee” if lawmakers don’t expand the program to even the cannabusiness playing field.

According to the Baltimore Sun, after Maryland’s first 15 cannabusiness licenses were awarded without a single African-American recipient, the Black Caucus called for a special session to address the diversity discrepancies. That session never happened, and now, Black Caucus members are threatening to disrupt the entire legislature if an equality-fueled cannabis industry expansion is not adapted in January.

“No one should expect us to have any trust if it doesn’t go the way that we have been told it will go,” Caucus Chairwoman Cheryl Glenn said. 

Glenn said that multiple legislative staffers, including the offices for House Speaker Michael Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, have assured her that the expansion bill, which would add five, presumably black-owned, cannabusinesses to the state’s fledgling marketplace. If those promises are not kept, Glenn and her Caucus peers are ready to make their voices heard loud and clear.

“We’re not going to go along to get along,” Delegate Bilal Ali, a Baltimore Democrat, said. “Lesson time is coming up.”

Maryland’s population is about one third African-American, and the state’s medical marijuana legislation specifically requires regulators to consider racial diversity when awarding licenses, and yet, the first state-sanctioned plants are already in the ground, with no African-American business owners currently allowed to set up shop.

At the state’s highest legislative level, Republican Governor Larry Hogan directed his office to compile a study to definitively see whether cannabis firms owned by people of color faced a harder road than businesses owned by white people. That study has not yet been completed, and serves as a legal barrier to awarding licenses that consider the applicant’s race.

Still, Maryland’s black legislators are tired of waiting for a bureaucratic study to confirm what they can already see.

Separate from the legislature’s expansion proposal and the Governor’s research, a lawsuit from a number of prospective black-owned cannabusinesses, that at one point temporarily put a halt to the state’s entire industry, is still being fought in court to this day.

Because the temporary injunction did not stick, the 15 licensed businesses have begun operations, with the Black Caucus left fighting to create an even platform on a tilted stage.

“We have not shirked away from calling it what it was, and we felt that, once again, black folks were put at the back of the line,” Glenn said.


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Zach Harris is a writer based in Philadelphia whose work has appeared on Noisey, First We Feast, and Jenkem Magazine. You can find him on Twitter @10000youtubes complaining about NBA referees.



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