Maryland Regulators Are Now Accepting Marijuana License Applications From Social Equity Businesses

Maryland has officially opened the first round of applications for new adult-use marijuana dispensary, cultivation and processing licenses—reserved exclusively for social equity businesses.

The Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) will ultimately be accepting a total of 179 marijuana licensees following the 30-day application period that started on Monday. That includes 75 dispensary, 16 grower and 32 processor licenses.

This will more than double the number of retailers in the state, where currently only existing medical marijuana dispensaries that converted to dual licenses are serving adult consumers.

The application process for this round is also meant to promote diversity and prevent large businesses from dominating the adult-use market.

People can only be associated with one application per license type, and they’re restricted from submitting more than two applications altogether in a single round.

MCA said in September that it “will not award any licenses that would violate statutory ownership or control restrictions,” meaning people can apply for both standard and micro licenses, they can only be awarded one. Applicants also can’t receive more than one of the same license type in different regions of the state.

There are caps on the number of licenses that can be awarded per region, with 11 standard dispensary licenses available in Baltimore City, compared to one in Worcester, for example.

MCA also unveiled an online portal in September that allows people to check their eligibility for a social equity marijuana business license as regulators begin to accept the applications.

Equity applicants are defined as those whose business is at least 65 percent owned by people who’ve lived in a designated “disproportionately impacted area” for a minimum of five of the last 10 years. They must also have attended a public school in such an area for at least five years, or attended a four-year college in Maryland where at least 40 percent of the students are eligible for a federal Pell Grant.

Applications will be accepted until December 12.

Regulators have also launched a technical assistance program to support marijuana social equity applicants for the newly opened business licensing round. People who plan to apply for an equity license will be able to attend informational sessions led by regulators and experts to navigate the process ahead of the 30-day application period.

Maryland’s cannabis market has proved popular since opening in July. While overall marijuana fell slightly in in October compared to the prior month, sales of adult-use products were stronger than ever. All told, licensed retailers in the state sold nearly $90 million in combined medical and retail cannabis products last month.

Also last month, MCA issued guidance meant to help minimize the risk of burglaries and other crimes at licensed cannabis businesses amid what they say is an uptick in thefts targeting dispensaries across the state.

Meanwhile, a Maryland tax official said earlier this year that the state had to find an unusual workaround with Wells Fargo in order to avoid clearly identifying marijuana tax revenue on financial forms—a policy that prohibitionists subsequently asked a federal prosecutor to investigate.

separate Maryland law also took effect in July that prevents police from using the odor or possession of marijuana alone as the basis of a search. And another law that went into force making it so the lawful and responsible use of cannabis by parents and guardians cannot be construed by state officials as child “neglect.”

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Photo courtesy of Mike Latimer.

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