Black Caucus sets agenda
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.