The Maryland Black Caucus laid out their priorities for the 2017 General Assembly session, including diversifying the medical cannabis industry, eliminating the cash bail system and reforming education during a press conference on Wednesday, January 18, 2017.
Although Maryland lawmakers passed a law allowing private medical marijuana businesses in 2014, none of the 102 pre-approved businesses are led by African-Americans. The Maryland Black Caucus wants to overhaul the 15-member commission to ensure racial and geographical diversity are considered going forward. The caucus is also fighting to reform the state’s cash bail system. Maryland’s current money-based system can set unaffordable amounts for many poor defendants, leaving them to await trial in jail. The system often disproportionately affects the lives of the working poor and minorities in the state, according to Douglas Colbert—a University of Maryland law professor. 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 can afford.
The Maryland Black Caucus members outlined their plan to draft legislation that would encourage minority-owned businesses in Maryland’s long-awaited medical cannabis industry. Although Maryland lawmakers passed a law allowing private medical businesses in 2014, the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission has not issued any final licenses to grow, process or dispense cannabis, according to its website.
However, the MMCC announced Dec. 9 it awarded pre-approvals for 102 businesses to sell medical cannabis, drawing from a pool of 811 applicants. None of the businesses selected are led by African-Americans. (More on the Maryland program here: https://www.veriheal.com/states/#Maryland)
“We will not accept the fact that the medical cannabis industry will be up and running in the state of Maryland with no minority participation,” said Delegate Cheryl Glenn, D-Baltimore.
Regarding education, the Maryland Black Caucus issued its support of a lawsuit that asserts students who attend historically black colleges to continue to face violations of their rights and segregation within higher education. Remedies are being used by the caucus to solve these issues, while they also intend to ban pre-K suspensions and return of control of the Baltimore City Public Schools System to the Baltimore City government.