Social equity in cannabis industry is a hot button issue. It is something that Maryland is currently focusing on. Read on to find out more about the state’s efforts.
What is Social Equity in Cannabis Industry?
Social equity in cannabis industry is a cause that allows people from communities disproportionately harmed by marijuana prohibition and discriminatory law enforcement to get cannabis licenses.
These communities largely consist of low income and minority groups that are facing challenges due to:
- The expense of obtaining licenses
- The challenges involved in opening a new business including hiring and vetting architects, negotiating with realtors, working with stakeholders, gaining approval etc.
- Difficulty filling out lengthy cannabis license applications
- Difficulty getting a loan
- Operational challenges due to ever-changes rules and regulations
The National Association of Cannabis Business (NACB) is active in supporting social equity in cannabis industry. They have devised a plan to allow people to apply for social equity licenses. These offer reduced licensing fees, technical assistance, low interest loans, and apprenticeship programs.
To be eligible, you must live in a geographical area that has had a high rate of arrest for marijuana related activity and higher than average poverty and unemployment rates. Those who have been arrested for a marijuana-related crime and/or are looking to employ workers who have been convicted of a marijuana-related crime may get priority in the application process.
The NACB is also pushing judicial reform hoping to expunge marijuana crimes from criminal records. They are pushing for 20% of cannabis-created tax revenue to be reinvested in impacted communities.
How Maryland is Getting Involved in the Social Equity in Cannabis Industry Cause
Maryland is getting behind the social equity in cannabis industry cause by enabling their existing medical marijuana businesses to sell recreational weed if they pay a fee based on the size of their business. The Democratic controlled measure would enable these businesses to begin selling recreational weed as soon as July 1.
Supporters are pointing out that the bill would help communities and ensure minorities could enter the industry.
“The goal in Maryland wasn’t to get our Marylanders high,” said Del. C.T. Wilson, a Democrat chair for the Maryland House Economics Matters Committee. “It was to take cannabis out of the criminal stream of commerce, protect young black men from being arrested and dying, and, additionally, give back to the communities that were most disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.”
Minority participation has been a priority in Maryland which became a minority-majority state in 2020. Lawmakers pledged to pay more attention to the issue after the state was criticized for its lack of social equity in cannabis industry. However, the government has faced its share of challenges in reaching its goals.
“I think in this country, less than 2% of cannabis participants are minorities- less than two. Our goal is to hit 30% within a year and a half. We’re going to be representational of Maryland. That is our goal, to make sure that we provide access to all Marylanders, minorities included,” Wilson went on to say.
The Availability of New Licenses
The new licenses will be available in two different rounds. They are designed to promote social equity in cannabis by allowing minority and low-income applicants to participate.
“I would say additionally in the revenue generation side, 30% of the revenues will be allocated specifically for impacted communities,” Senate President Bill Ferguson explained to the media.
Priority for the new licenses will be given to minority owners in communities disproportionately affected by incidents that occurred when marijuana was illegal. To qualify, the applicant would have to have lived in one of these communities for five to ten years or attended a public school in one of these communities for five years.
The New Legislation
The legislation to allow for the selling of recreational marijuana was approved by Maryland voters in November with 67% voting to legalize by July 1. However, details still need to be worked out concerning regulation, licensing, and taxation. If all goes well, people 21 and over will be permitted to possess up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana.
The measure, which is about 100 pages long, calls for a 6% tax in the next fiscal. It would go up 1% each year to reach a cap of 10% in 2028. Medical marijuana would remain untaxed.
Gov. Wes Moore, a Democrat who is the first and the state’s first black governor, has also emphasized the important of social equity in cannabis industry. Last month, he released $46 million relating to the implementation of recreational cannabis in Maryland. That included about $40 million for the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund which supports the growth of small, minority and women-owned businesses in the cannabis industry.
Social equity in cannabis industry is so important. It is fortunate that Maryland continues to keep it on its radar while the NACB pushes new initiatives. We look forward to a world where the industry is accessible to people from all walks of life.