ANNAPOLIS, Md. — An applicant for a license to grow medical marijuana in Maryland plans to sue a state commission for allegedly failing to consider racial diversity when the panel named the top 15 finalists, a lawyer for the applicant said Tuesday.
John Pica, who represents Alternative Medicine Maryland, said the applicant plans to file the lawsuit next week against the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission. Pica said Alternative Medicine wants to stop the panel from taking further action on awarding licenses until it follows a provision in state law requiring diversity to be considered in the process. Alternative Medicine is led by Dr. Greg Daniels, a black physician and businessman.
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It will be the third lawsuit filed against the commission by would-be marijuana growers in a highly-competitive process. Green Thumb Industries and GTI Maryland filed lawsuits this month after they were bumped out of the top 15 by the commission and replaced by two other applicants in order to fulfill geographic diversity stipulations in the law. There were 146 applicants for the 15 licenses the law currently allows.
“The statute states the commission shall actively seek to achieve ethnic, racial and geographic diversity in awarding medical cannabis grower licenses, so they went out of their way to achieve geographic diversity but didn’t do anything to achieve racial diversity,” Pica said.
Dr. Paul Davies wrote in a letter published on the commission’s website this month that the commission took “every possible step” to include racial diversity as a weighted component. However, Davies said the commission removed the provisions from the final regulations, after receiving legal advice from the attorney general’s office.
The advice noted that constitutional limits would prevent the commission from conducting race- or ethnicity-conscious licensing without a disparity study showing past discrimination in similar programs. A spokeswoman for the attorney general’s office, however, noted later that nothing would have prevented the commission from conducting such a study on its own.
Davies met with Attorney General Brian Frosh this month and said the commission will worth with the attorney general to address diversity concerns.
“We believe that diversity is in the best interest of the industry and an important responsibility,” Davies wrote on the commission’s website. “The commission will continue to work with the legislature to help solve these complex problems.”
Del. Cheryl Glenn, the head of the Legislative Black Caucus, has criticized the commission for the lack of diversity in finalists. The Baltimore Democrat has said plans to address diversity concerns may include emergency legislation early in the next legislative session.