Arguments break out in Senate over medical marijuana industry bill amendment

It’s going to be close, but state House leaders are optimistic a medical marijuana bill aimed at making the industry more diverse will pass before the session ends.

The legislation is still going through changes, but the next stop will be in the House which is expected to send it to the governor’s desk for his signature.

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The bill, considered a priority by both chambers, has bounced back and forth between them. Although it doesn’t look anything like it did when introduced, it is something the bill’s sponsor, state Delegate Cheryl Glenn, said she is satisfied with.

Legislation designed to make Maryland’s medical marijuana industry more diverse has faced battles every step of the way.

“I’m frustrated after the disparity study, that you can’t set aside licenses for African-Americans, but that’s what the law is and what we have to accept,” Glenn said.

The measure, now on the Senate floor, grants as many as 22 grower licenses. Three are reserved for existing licensees, two for the companies bumped because of geographic diversity and one to an African American company that had already applied. It creates 15 licenses to process the plant, but three of those also go to existing firms.

Just when bill supporters anticipated quick passage in the Senate, an argument broke out over an amendment clarifying the grounds that a medical marijuana license applicant can be disqualified. The discussion centered on felony convictions.

“One of the points that has been raised has been if the commission can reject people for substantial reasons. What we are saying right now without my amendment is, you can’t consider that felony as a substantial reason,” Sen. Justin Ready said.

“It’s only when we come back and look at the diversity issue that we want to

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