Maryland Cannabis Companies Called Out For Racism and Discrimination

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Last week, a former employee of Baltimore County dispensary Charm City Medicus took to Twitter to describe how they quit working as a receptionist after they said dispensary owner Bryan Hill asked them to remove the letters “BLM”—for Black Lives Matter—written on their cheek. In response, the former employee who identified themselves as “Lynn” only quit. 

Lynn declined comment to The Outlaw Report and Charm City Medicus did not respond to requests for comment either, though the dispensary has released a series of public statements. In “An Open Letter To The Community” signed by Hill, Charm City Medicus mentioned the dispensary’s policy “that bars individuals from displaying political views or opinions on social issues” and said the dispensary “apologize[s] if [they] inadvertently offended” employees or customers. Hill later writes, “I now better understand the unjust reality of Black Americans, including members of our team, face every day.” According to the letter, Charm City Medicus “leadership and staff” will receive racial sensitivity training.

Since Lynn’s Twitter video (since deleted), a number of other former employees of Charm City Medicus have spoken out about racist attitudes among the dispensary’s ownership. Lynn and others have also noted that the security staff at Charm City Medicus had been hostile to Black Lives Matter and had been allowed to wear clothing with the message, “Blue Lives Matter,” a pro-police, anti-BLM message that was created in response to the burgeoning movement for racial justice. Many criticized Hill’s letter for not saying “Black Lives Matter” and in later statements, including on to the Baltimore Business Journal, Hill made sure to include the phrase. 

A Change.org petition titled, “Stop Supporting Racist Charm City Medicus” has been circulated by another former Charm City Medicus employee and says the dispensary has “taken a position against the #blacklivesmatter movement,” adding that in its open letter, Charm City Medicus, “did not in any way admit that they were wrong and show no remorse for the loss of their employee.” The petition demands companies that provide product to Charm City Medicus or advertise with the dispensary “stop selling products and affiliating with a racist organization that has a history of discrimination.”

Among those the petition is addressed to is Michael Bronfein, the CEO of Curio Wellness. As The Baffler reported last year, one of Curio’s main investors is David Smith, chairman of the notoriously, right-wing Sinclair Broadcast Group, which has been a villain in Baltimore for years but has become well-known during the Trump administration—especially after a Deadspin story revealed how it forced its numerous station to all deliver the same message about so-called “one-sided news.” 

In 2019, Curio Wellness sued the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission in response to the added round of approved growers, processors, and dispensaries to account for the lack of racial equity among the initial, all-white approved cannabis companies.

The lawsuit was immediately criticized and eventually, Curio dropped it.

“I have seen the concerns from our customers on social media about racial insensitivity,” Curio CEO Bronfein wrote. “I have seen comments and accusations that in no way reflect the values of this company and are not an accurate depiction of the hardworking people of all races and ethnicities I work with every day. These are concerns to which I cannot, and will not, turn a blind eye.”

Last week, as criticism was growing against Charm City Medicus, the Atlas Restaurant Group, run by Alex Smith, the nephew of Sinclair’s David Smith, was protested after a black child was told he could not enter the restaurant because of he was wearing athletic shorts—even though a white child in similar attire was already seated (Atlas’ dress code had already been criticized as racist even before this incident).

Also mentioned in the petition is Colorado-based Dixie Brands. Dixie Brands’ “Dixie elixir” is common at many Maryland dispensaries. As cannabis consumers continue demanding accountability, the company might want to follow the lead of the Dixie Chicks and consider just removing that “dixie” part of their name altogether.

Photo of Charm City Medicus via Charmcitymedicus.com

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