The state of Maryland has unveiled a new online portal that will allow marijuana social-equity applicants to verify their eligibility for social-equity licenses before they can officially submit applications later in the year. According to a recent statement from the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA), the state’s Social-Equity Verification Portal will be open to the public beginning Sept. 8, 2023.
Maryland Cannabis Administration Acting Director Will Tilburg said the goal of the verification tool is to provide people interested in social-equity status with a means of determining their eligibility before regulators officially open the application period. Like most states with legal cannabis programs, Maryland’s cannabis legalization policy includes social-equity provisions meant to reinvest in communities disproportionately impacted by the decades-long war on drugs. The new verification tool is the latest in Maryland’s efforts to implement its cannabis social-equity goals ahead of the application period.
Regulators will issue the first round of new cannabis cultivation, processing and retail licenses to social-equity applicants exclusively, making social-equity status extremely attractive for entrepreneurs looking to enter Maryland’s nascent cannabis industry as soon as possible. Maryland launched recreational cannabis sales on July 1, 2023, through its network of existing medical cannabis operators who acquired dual licenses that allowed them to sell both medical and recreational cannabis. The new round of licenses is exclusively for recreational cannabis operators and will allow them to tap into an industry predicted to reach a billion dollars in valuation by 2025.
Maryland classifies social-equity applicants as businesses that are at least 65% owned by individuals who live or have lived for at least 5 of the past 10 years in an area designated as “disproportionately impacted” by cannabis criminalization. Social-equity applicants should also have gone to a public school in the designated area for a minimum of five years or a Maryland college where at least 40% of the students qualify for a federal pell grant.
State officials announced the launch of the free online verification portal on the same day the Maryland Cannabis Administration’s Office of Social Equity published data on zip codes, colleges and public schools that are eligible for social-equity status.
The Maryland Department of Commerce (DOC) has also begun accepting applications for a multimillion dollar program to help social-equity applicants open cannabis businesses in the state. The $40 million program will provide grants to social-equity applicants with preapproval and help medical cannabis businesses convert their single licenses into dual licenses.
When the recreational cannabis industry gets fully underway in Maryland, the state could see many thriving companies in the way that entities such as Aurora Cannabis Inc. (NASDAQ: ACB) (TSX: ACB) are thriving in the markets within which they have operations.
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