Maryland lawmakers OK bill to boost diversity in state's medical marijuana industry

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — A measure to help improve diversity in Maryland’s new medical marijuana industry received final approval by the General Assembly on Monday, as lawmakers worked toward a midnight deadline when the legislative session is scheduled to end.

Maryland lawmakers also will be working on measures designed to improve school safety and fight crime.

The medical marijuana measure increases the number of grower licenses from 15 to as many as 22. Two licenses are set aside for two companies that sued over the licensing process and four more will be up for grabs. The measure takes steps to help minority-owned companies receive those licenses, based on a study earlier this year that concluded minorities have faced obstacles to entering similar industries in the past. The bill also increases the number of marijuana processor licenses from 15 to 28.

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The school-safety measure, which has been advancing with bipartisan support, would create a variety of standards and guidelines statewide. The House gave the measure preliminary approval on Saturday with some changes to the Senate legislation. The bill now would require public high schools to have either a school resource officer or plans for adequate law enforcement coverage by the upcoming school year. Other schools, such as middle and elementary schools, would need to have the plans in place for the school year that begins in 2019.

Lawmakers and Gov. Larry Hogan proposed legislation to increase school safety after the February school shooting in Parkland, Florida. The issue has received extra attention in the state after the March 20 shooting in southern Maryland at Great Mills High School, where a student shot and killed a former girlfriend before killing himself.

Legislators already have set aside about $41 million in the budget to make school safety improvements. 

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