Black Cau­cus sets agenda

Maryland Independent - - News - By BRI­ANNA RHODES AND NATALIE SCHWARTZ

ANNAPOLIS — The Mary­land Black Cau­cus laid out its pri­or­i­ties for the 2017 Gen­eral Assem- bly ses­sion, in­clud­ing di­ver­si­fy­ing the medi- cal cannabis in­dus­try, elim­i­nat­ing the cash bail sys­tem and re­form­ing ed­u­ca­tion dur­ing a press con­fer­ence Wed­nes­day morn­ing.

The cau­cus mem­bers out­lined their plan to draft leg­is­la­tion that would en­cour­age mi­nor­ity-owned busi­nesses in Mary­land’s long-awaited med­i­cal mar­i­juana in­dustr y.

Although Mary­land law­mak­ers passed a law al­low­ing pri­vate med­i­cal mar­i­juana busi­nesses in 2014, the Mary­land Medi- cal Cannabis Com­mis­sion has not is­sued any fi­nal li­censes to grow, process or dis­pense cannabis, ac- cord­ing to its web­site.

How­ever, the com­mis- sion an­nounced Dec. 9 it awarded pre-ap­provals for 102 busi­nesses to sell med­i­cal cannabis, draw- ing from a pool of 811 ap­pli­cants. None of the busi­nesses se­lected is led by African-Amer­i­cans.

“We will not ac­cept the fact that the med­i­cal can- nabis in­dus­try will be up and run­ning in the state of Mary­land with no mi­nor­ity par­tic­i­pa­tion,” said Del. Ch­eryl Glenn (D-Bal­ti­more).

The cau­cus wants to over­haul the 15-mem­ber com­mis­sion to en­sure racial and ge­o­graph­i­cal di­ver­sity are con­sid­ered go­ing for­ward, Glenn said, adding this mea­sure wouldn’t fur­ther de­lay ac- cess to med­i­cal cannabis.

The cau­cus is also fight­ing to re­form the state’s cash bail sys­tem. The state’s cur­rent mon- ey-based sys­tem can set un­af­ford­able amounts for many poor de­fen­dants, leav­ing them to await trial in jail, said Dou­glas Col­bert, a Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land law pro­fes­sor. The sys­tem of­ten dis­pro­por­tion­ately af­fects the lives of the work­ing poor and mi­nori­ties in the state, Col­bert added.

The Mary­land Court of Ap­peals con­sid­ered Jan. 5 a change to the cur­rent sys­tem by or­der­ing judges to set bail at a cost the de­fen­dant will be able to af­ford.

Cau­cus mem­bers an­nounced they would also fo­cus on in­creas­ing pub­lic safety by cre­at­ing more trans­parency be­tween po­lice of­fi­cers and the gen­eral pub­lic.

Re­gard­ing ed­u­ca­tion, the cau­cus is­sued its sup­port of a law­suit that as­serts stu­dents who at­tend his­tor­i­cally black col­leges con­tinue to face vi­o­la­tions of their rights and seg­re­ga­tion within higher ed­u­ca­tion. They are seek­ing reme­dies to solve the is­sues, which will con­tinue to take place in the next few weeks, Del. Charles Syd­nor (D-Bal­ti­more County) said.

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