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How Maryland Is Making the Cannabis Industry Accessible for All

Hands around a cannabis plant

Last year, Maryland became the 20th state to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. The Maryland Cannabis Administration (which oversees licensing, regulation, and inspection of Maryland’s cannabis industry) has adopted social equity initiatives to ensure fair access to cannabis licenses and increase diversity in the industry. As stated by the Marijuana Policy Project, some of these initiatives include: 

  • The Maryland Cannabis Administration is directed to license five growers who are recognized class members in the Pigford v. Glickman or In Re Black Farmers case (Black farmers who the USDA discriminated against in farm loans) and who “have not been fully compensated for the discrimination they have endured and that they have experienced ongoing discrimination or the continued effects of past discrimination.” 

  • The Maryland Cannabis Administration is required to “conduct extensive outreach to small, minority, and women business owners and entrepreneurs who may have an interest in applying for a cannabis license” before accepting applications, and to connect potential social equity applicants with the Office of Social Equity.” 

  • The Office of Social Equity is to work with the Cannabis Administration to implement free technical assistance for social equity and minority cannabis business applicants. 

  • The Comptroller shall distribute the funds to each county proportionate to arrests in that county for a cannabis crime the 20.5 years prior to January 1, 2023, compared to total individuals arrested for cannabis in the state. Each county will enact a law on how to use the funds. Funds may only be used to fund administrative expenses and community–based initiatives intended to benefit low–income communities or that serve an area identified by the office of social equity as a disproportionately impacted area.  

Expungement of Cannabis-Related Charges

Related to the legalization of marijuana, Maryland has allowed the expungement of cannabis-related criminal and civil charges. According to Capital News Service, 15,000 people in the state have been arrested for marijuana possession between 2018 and 2020. Over half of the people arrested during that time were Black, even though Maryland’s population is approximately 30% Black. The decriminalization of marijuana is a massive step to remedy the longstanding history of mass incarceration of people of color. 

The passing of the Cannabis Reform bill makes individuals who have been convicted of cannabis possession of under 1.5 ounces or possession under the age of 21 eligible for record expungement after completion of their sentence. Those convicted of possession with intent to distribute will be eligible for record expungement 3 years after the completion of their sentence; and those convicted for simple possession will be eligible for automatic expungement by July 1, 2024. 

If you or someone you know are interested in expungement of cannabis-related convictions, our law firm hosts an expungement clinic, in partnership with the St. Mary’s County Health Hub, on the first Tuesday of every other month from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Those interested must register by calling the Health Hub, as walk-ins are not allowed. The first expungement clinic of the year will be on March 5 

St. Mary's County Health Department Logo

Information for the St. Mary’s County Health Hub: St. Mary's County Health Department Health Hub 21625 Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, MD 20653, 301-904-8949 (Office) 

Learn more about the bimonthly expungement clinics here:


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