Race doesn’t always have to be an issue
From the moment that Maryland’s preliminary medical marijuana grower and processor licenses were announced last month, we knew that the decision of the state commission would ruffle some feathers — after all, at stake are lucrative business licenses and likely political support.
The state law that established the Maryland medical marijuana program — written by the elected members of the Maryland State Senate and House of Delegates — required that the program’s licensees have geographic and racially diversity.
But is there any reason for either stipulation other than pandering to potential political supporters?
The commission consulted with the Maryland Office of the Attorney General on whether racial diversity was necessary in the licensing, and an assistant attorney general concluded that since no history of racial discrimination existed in the industry, it was not necessary to ensure racial diversity in licensing.
To be as impartial and objective as possible, applicants submitted lengthy background documents and questionnaire answers to the commission in a “double-blind” system, relegating each applicant to only a ID number. Those applications were then scored by Towson University’s Regional Economic Studies Institute, which reviewed more than 1,000 applications, including 145 to grow cannabis plants. Everyone was impressed by the massive scale of the professional operation.
That is until the commission announced its 15 selections for each type of license.
The Legislative Black Caucus was quick to point out that none of the top-ranked applicants were led by minorities and cried foul.
“This is a good modern-day civil rights fight,” said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, caucus chairwoman. Huh? We must have missed the part where an ages-long pattern of discrimination diminished an African American’s ability to sell medical marijuana in the state. Wait, no one has been legally allowed to currently grow, process or sell medical marijuana? Then this complaint can only be seen as political favoritism out to gain some lucrative support.
In an attempt to gain “geographic diversity,” the commission also chose to pass over two of the top 15 ranked applicants in order to select two lower ranked ones in counties without a selection. As expected, however, one of those passed over, Bethesda-based GTI Maryland, sued the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission last week over that decision, arguing the commission’s decision-making process was “illogical, opaque and fatally flawed.”
GTI rightly argues that it should have been given the opportunity to move its operation to a different county if required by law — as other applicants have since decided to do after being named a preliminary licensee — but we question why it has to move at all.
Does it matter where the state’s medical marijuana is grown, other than political pandering yet again?
The reality is that the state’s medical marijuana industry is rare ground — an untainted industry that can and should be formed free of preconceived notions about who can play. We should choose those with the greatest expertise and merit to grow the plants that will be turned into safe medicinal products.
And we should choose those people without considering the color of their skin or where they choose to grow their crop. To do otherwise is simply favoritism disguised as discrimination.