As Maryland officials oversee the rollout of recreational marijuana sales in the state, they’re also opening a second round of funding to help social equity cannabis businesses with operational costs to open their shops.
The state Department of Commerce (DOC) announced on Monday that it will be opening applications for the $40 million in grant funding to social equity applicants with pre-approval starting on August 1. The money will come from the Cannabis Business Assistance Loan, which was established under a cannabis regulations bill that Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed in May.
Previously, regulators have already been accepting applications to provide grants through the same fund to help existing medical marijuana businesses convert into dual licensees that can serve the adult-use market.
This latest batch of funding is for social equity licensees who held stage one pre-approval for a license before October 1 of last year and are not yet operational by August 1.
“The cannabis industry is evolving quickly and we want to make sure that Maryland helps lead this new chapter of equity and economic growth,” the governor said in a press release. “By focusing this round of funding on social equity applicants, we can ensure investments go towards businesses in communities that have been historically overlooked, and ultimately provide new opportunities for residents throughout Maryland.”
Applicants will need to provide information about how they intend to use the funding and the timeline for when they intend to become operational with the financial support. They will get to choose between receiving a grant that’s paid as a lump sum or a zero-interest loan that they’d pay back over five years. Grant recipients will receive up to $5 million each.
“Reforming Maryland’s cannabis industry has been a very collaborative process with community partners across the state,” DOC Secretary Kevin Anderson said. “By having this equitable rollout of the state’s Cannabis Business Assistance Fund, we will continue growing the conversation while driving innovation, job creation, and positive change throughout the industry.”
Applications for the new grant program will be accepted through September 1.
Maryland officials are planning future funding rounds that will focus on supporting cannabis-related programs at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, businesses applying for licenses and business development organizations such as incubators.
“Funding will also be available to train and assist small businesses, including minority and women business owners and entrepreneurs who are seeking to become licensed to participate in the adult-use cannabis industry,” DOC said
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The adult-use market in Maryland opened up on July 1, with the state seeing more than $10 million in sales across the recreational and medical programs during the opening weekend.
Nearly 100 of the state’s existing medical cannabis dispensaries were approved for dual licensing to serve adult consumers. And the Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) also said it collected more than $15 million in licensing conversion fees from those facilities that will be distributed to community reinvestment funds. It plans to provide another $45 million from those fees over the next 18 months.
In May, MCA released a first batch of rules for the industry to the Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review (AELR), a key step to stand up the industry that launched this month.
The 41-page document sets definitions, codifies personal possession limits, lays out responsibilities for regulators, explains licensing protocol—including for social equity applicants, clarifies enforcement authorities and penalties and outlines packaging and labeling requirements.
A legalization ballot measure approved by voters in November and subsequent regulations legislation that the governor signed was partly a product of extensive work from bipartisan and bicameral lawmakers who were part of House Cannabis Referendum and Legalization Workgroup, which was formed in 2021 by Speaker Adrienne Jones (D).
Members held numerous meetings to inform future regulations following voters’ passage of the legalization referendum during last year’s election, which triggered the implementation of complementary legislation covering rules for basic policies like possession and low-level home cultivation.
Meanwhile, a separate law also took effect this month that prevents police from using the odor or possession of marijuana alone as the basis of a search. Yet another law that went into force makes it so the lawful and responsible use of cannabis by parents and guardians cannot be construed by state officials as child “neglect.”
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