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Donning his signature straw hat alongside a sharp suit, lobbyist Darrell Carrington brought advocates, legislators and the business community together in Bowie to discuss the intricacies and opportunities of cannabis legalization on May 20.
Former Maryland legislator Darryl Barnes gave the opening words for Carrington’s “Cannabis Reform Summit: A Sober Conversation About Legal Weed.”
“I am 30 days removed from being a State Delegate,” he said. “One thing I fought for as Chair of the Black Caucus was minority business participation. This is a billion-dollar-plus industry, and we want to make sure we get it right.”
Barnes made minority business inclusion one of his signature issues as delegate, and he plans to advise municipalities and counties on improving their procurement practices before he can officially become a lobbyist with Gerry Evan’s lobbying firm in 11 months.
The former Maryland politician explained the purpose of the conference is for minority-owned businesses to gain clarity in entering the cannabis market.
“It’s about understanding the law, and understanding the opportunities that are afforded to minority-owned businesses and how they can best participate,” Barnes said.
Delegate C.T. Wilson (D- District 28), chair of the Economic Matters Committee and sponsor of the cannabis legalization legislation, spoke about business regulation.
“Part of my job last session was to draft a cannabis licensing structure. In my opinion, no one had done it correctly. Less than 2% of cannabis owners are minorities. It was a challenging aspect to fix because the Supreme Court demands a race neutral standard,” he said.
Despite his personal disinterest in cannabis, Wilson sat down with Matt Jackson for months to set an equitable agenda. The District 28 delegate focused on ensuring fairly low tax rates and, as a prosecutor having seen a great deal of drug-involved violence, he particularly prioritized limiting the black market.
Delegate Jheanelle Wilkins, vice chair of the Ways and Means Committee and chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, spoke about social equity and how the taxes collected from sales will be utilized. She expressed some frustration with the inability to use race as a determinant in the legislation to undo the effects of the War on Drugs.
Charles County Board of Commissioners President Reuben Collins (D) spoke about the local impacts of legalization. Deputy Majority Whip and Appropriations Committee Member Delegate Julian Ivey (D-District 47) spoke about independent dispensaries. He introduced legislation in 2020 alongside Prince George’s Senator Joanne Benson (D) to expand the amount of dispensary licenses available.
Baltimore County Delegate Robin Grammer (R), a member of the House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup, shared Republican attitudes toward cannabis legalization. Grammar has sponsored legislation that would allow medical cannabis patients to maintain their concealed carry licenses in past years.
Other discussions surrounded the history and future of cannabis in Maryland and the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission, with which the official cannabis legalization legislation comes, the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Cannabis Commission.
We previously covered many of the details of cannabis legislation. Read more here.