Opportunity in Our Own Backyard

As a company with an obvious interest in the legalization of cannabis, we keep a close eye on developments throughout the continent. We cheer the forward progress and we agonize as state after state botches their rollout in one way or another, because that keeps the black market in business.

And we pay special attention to the news in our own neck of the woods. Baltimore’s problems have been well documented, and making cannabis more widely available might appear to be pretty low on the list of priorities. But where others see controversy, we see opportunity.

This week marked the deadline to apply for four growing licenses and 10 processing licenses in the state of Maryland. More than a year after laws were passed to boost participation in the process by women- and minority-owned businesses, the state received 160 application for those 14 licenses. And of course, the application process was marred by technical difficulties because state and local governments just can’t seem to figure out this whole internet thing.

We salute the effort to diversify ownership in the industry, especially since Maryland’s first effort badly missed the mark in that regard. But what will really make this work in the long run is successful applicants who are diverse and LOCAL, people or groups with strong ties to the communities they’ll serve.

Can we dream a little further? What if the area’s traditionally African American colleges like Morgan State, Coppin State and Bowie State were to develop accredited cannabis-centric programs, with college credit courses and internships that would provide a path to great jobs in our burgeoning industry? That’s how you turn a community concern into a positive movement.

Legalizing cannabis is the greatest social experiment of our still-young century. There’s no road map, and we’re all in a place where taking risks and pushing boundaries are all in a day’s work. Maryland’s medical marijuana industry did $109 million in sales last year, and that number will continue to grow. If we make sure that the people with a vested interest in the industry are also the ones with a vested interest in their own communities, cannabis can be the rising tide that lifts all boats.