License allocation is planned for January 1st with another batch coming May 1st
The Maryland Cannabis Oversight Body has unveiled its Social Equity Verification Tool in preparation for the Jan. 1 allocation of cultivation, processing, and retail licenses aimed at areas significantly affected by past drug policies.
This digital platform, set to be operational from Sept. 8, plays a crucial role in defining the eligibility for the inaugural set of new licenses, based on three key eligibility criteria.
For eligibility, candidates must have resided in zones heavily influenced by previous drug policies for five to 10 years directly before submitting their application. The Cannabis Reform Act of 2023 defines these zones as ones with cannabis possession rates exceeding 150% of Maryland’s decadal average.
Other pathways to qualification include having a five-year educational history in a public school within these affected zones or a two-year attendance at a tertiary institution in Maryland where nearly half of the student population benefited from Pell Grants.
The Office of Social Equity, a standalone executive entity, used data from the Maryland Judiciary, the State’s Education Department, and the Higher Education Commission to design this eligibility framework.
Prospective social equity candidates should ensure a minimum 65% ownership and influence by at least one individual who meets one of the outlined eligibility points.
Acting head of the Maryland Cannabis Oversight Body, Will Tilburg, emphasized the platform’s purpose: “Our primary aim in launching this free verification tool is to clarify eligibility before the application phase kicks off, streamlining the process for all potential applicants.”
In the 2022 general election, the majority of Maryland residents voted pro-cannabis legalization. As 2023’s legislative term unfolded, legislators prioritized creating an inclusive industry framework that recognizes communities of color and those severely affected by drug policies before their July 1 cut-off.
Existing medical cannabis enterprises took the lead, transitioning their permits to accommodate both medical and recreational cannabis before July’s beginning.
Audrey Johnson, the head of the Office of Social Equity, expressed optimism: “Maryland is pioneering change with its new social equity criteria for the imminent cannabis license applications. Our mission is to redefine the cannabis sector, ensuring representation and allowing historically marginalized communities to envision a future teeming with diversity and dynamism.”
For details on using the verification platform (accessible until Nov. 7), individuals can visit cannabis.maryland.gov. License allocation is planned for Jan. 1, with another batch set for release post-May 1, 2024.
Highlighting Maryland’s unique position, Gov. Wes Moore remarked, “Maryland is the sole state prioritizing social equity candidates for its initial cannabis licenses, positioning it as a national frontrunner in fostering inclusivity within the adult-use cannabis realm.”