Virginia Medicinal Cannabis On Its Way, Maryland Medicinal Continues To Deal With Racial Equity

The Outlaw Report has been paying close attention to the cannabis reforms happening in Virginia this past legislative session including decriminalization of possession of up to an ounce of cannabis, a serious look at  implementing legalization, and the establishment of a medicinal cannabis program. The speed at which Virginia has navigated these reforms has illustrated just how much more Maryland—which decriminalized possession of 10 grams or less of cannabis in 2014, introduced medicinal cannabis two years later, and is still figuring out legalization—could be doing. 

In effect, Virginia has in one legislative session caught up with Maryland. Even in this legislative session, Maryland could not push through an increase to its decriminalization threshold which is currently at 10 grams and which House Bill 550 would have increased to an ounce. That bill has stalled after passing the House and the Senate. 

In Virginia in the next two months, according to New Cannabis Ventures, three of the five businesses awarded medical cannabis processing licenses in 2018, “are expected to begin dispensing cannabis products to patients within the next two months.” Virginia legalization meanwhile, is being heavily debated as Virginia’s governor Ralph Northam intends to slow walk it while advocates including Virginia’s Black Legislative Caucus announced that it wants a special legislative session in August to consider cannabis legalization, among other racial equity issues. And you may recall that in 2019, Maryland established a workgroup to discuss the ins and outs of legalization which ended with the workgroup deciding it would not be recommending legalization in 2020.

Maryland meanwhile, has yet to account for serious issues regarding racial equity within its own medicinal cannabis program. These issues have been apparent since the start of Maryland’s program—and the inability so far, for the program to handle racial equity was cited by the legalization workgroup as a major reason to delay legalization. 

Washington D.C.’s news station WUSA9 recently profiled Black cannabis entrepreneur Jume Akinnagbe, of the Maryland company Remileaf, one of the 200 medicinal cannabis applicants competing for just 14 so-called “diversity licenses” which were slated to  be awarded by the Maryland Medicinal Cannabis Commission (MMCC) in September 2019 (check out The Outlaw Report’s past reporting on the licensing process here)

“When I think about getting one of those cannabis licenses, I think about social justice, considering that African Americans have been the community disproportionately disadvantaged and negatively impacted as a result of the War on Drugs,” Akinnagbe told WUSA9.

WUSA9 also reported “cannabis industry sources tell us they expect a state license selection this summer,” though The Outlaw Report has heard that the selection process is likely going to take even longer. A statement from the MMCC provided to WUSA9 did not confirm a time period.

“[The MMCC] is looking forward to the completion of the independent investigation and the ownership investigation into highly ranked Grower and Processor applicants,” the statement read. “The Commission will not consider awarding any pre-approvals until it has received and reviewed the findings of these investigations.”

At June’s MMCC meeting, it was announced that the next meeting’s time and date would be announced soon and that the meeting would be in-person rather than virtual, as the past couple meetings have been. That date has not yet been announced. Though, it seems unlikely that the MMCC will make any licensing decisions at this meeting.

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