Maryland’s First Adult-Use Marijuana License Applications Will Open For Social Equity Businesses In November, Regulators Announce

Maryland officials have announced that the first round of applications for new adult-use marijuana dispensary, cultivation and processing licenses will open on November 13—reserved exclusively for social equity businesses.

The Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) said on Friday that it will ultimately be accepting a total of 179 marijuana licensees following the 30-day application period, including 75 dispensaries, 16 growers and 32 processors.

That 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 additionally said 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.

“Today’s announcement is another step forward in fulfilling Maryland’s commitment to building an equitable and inclusive cannabis industry,” MCA Acting Director Will Tilburg said in a press release on Friday. “This application round will more than double the number of cannabis businesses in the State, and each award will be to a verified social equity applicant.”

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.

Friday’s announcement also comes days after MCA unveiled a new portal that will allow people to check their eligibility for a social equity marijuana business license before 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.

Maryland’s cannabis market has proved popular since opening in July. The state saw nearly $92 million in marijuana sales in August—and an increase from July’s $87 million in receipts and more than double the typical sales numbers from when the market was open only to medical patients.

Meanwhile, the state Department of Commerce (DOC) is started accepting applications for $40 million in grant funding to social equity applicants with pre-approval last month.

Regulators have already been accepting applications to provide grants through the same fund to help existing medical marijuana businesses convert into dual licensees that can serve the adult-use market.

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MCA’s Andrew Garrison said in July that the state was uniquely prepared for the implementation of the marijuana legalization law, which followed deep study from lawmakers and voter approval of a reform initiative at the ballot last year.

As regulators assess the first months of recreational marijuana sales, Garrison said officials are also actively working on a “cleanup bill” to adjust regulations that he expects will be taken up by the legislature during the next session.

MCA will be holding what it describes as “limited town halls” with stakeholder groups, including dispensaries, growers and patient advocates to develop permanent regulations. That process will also involve public comment periods once the draft rules are ready to be published.

Meanwhile, a Maryland tax official recently said that the state has found an unusual workaround with Wells Fargo in order to avoid clearly identifying marijuana tax revenue on financial forms—a policy that prohibitionists are protesting and asking a federal prosecutor to investigate.

Separately, a 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. Yet another law that went into force makes 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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