Earlier this year, Maryland lawmakers enacted legislation authorizing significant changes to the medical cannabis statute, which was originally passed during the 2014 Maryland General Assembly. The legislation, otherwise known as “House Bill 2,” requires the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission (“MMCC”) to conduct ongoing outreach efforts to small, minority, and women business owners interested in applying for grower and processor licenses in early 2019. In an effort to advance the legislative mandates of HB2, MMCC is accepting applications from educational institutions and business organizations for training and education programs designed to help small, minority, and female business owners during the upcoming application process. MMCC will award 5 grants of up to $45,000, announcing the grant awardees in late November–just in time for the license application process in January.

I am excited the state of Maryland is finally taking action to promote diversity in the industry, as I have had countless conversations with individuals across the country about the significant barriers to entry facing individuals from underrepresented groups. Federal prohibition is directly responsible for heightening financial barriers to entry in the cannabis industry because financial institutions cannot extend traditional financial services, i.e. small business loans, to businesses or individuals engaging in illegal activity (unless they’re willing to face significant legal consequences for doing so). The cost of applying and maintaining a state-issued license is a significant cost, which means opportunities to participate in the industry are limited to individuals with independent wealth and/or access to private capital. Even if one is able to secure private investment funds, the legal ramifications of accepting funds pursuant to a debt-equity agreement are obscured by the complex legal jargon contained in the agreement terms and conditions. For example, securing funds from a private investor is almost always contingent upon relinquishment of proprietary information, intellectual property rights, and control of the business operation, making it even more difficult for anyone who wants to retain oversight and ownership of the business venture (i.e. most businesspeople). The promotion and inclusion of diverse participants in Maryland’s medical cannabis program is long overdue, but it is nonetheless encouraging to know MMCC officials are taking action to help address the problem.

As a female business owner myself, I am incredibly passionate about ensuring the inclusion of individuals from underrepresented groups in our industry. Despite media reports of an industry brimming with “ample business opportunities” for women and minorities, and talks of “breaking the grass ceiling,” the unfortunate reality is states have done far too little to advance these easily achievable goals. I am hopeful the availability of state-funded training and assistance programs is at least a step in the right direction.

If you are interested in learning more about the grant opportunity or if you want to apply, please don’t hesitate to reach out via email, emily@legallyburns.com, or by phone (410)-910-9699, as this is an excellent opportunity for anyone looking to educate and inspire budding ganjapreneurs.