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Maryland Officials Tout Nation’s ‘First’ Marijuana Social Equity Licensing Lottery For All Business Categories



Maryland officials have announced the winners of a first-of-its-kind marijuana licensing lottery for social equity applicants across all license categories, approving 174 growers, processors and dispensaries.

The Maryland Cannabis Administration (MCA) held the lottery last month. As the state approaches the one-year anniversary of the first adult-use marijuana sales, regulators took to social media on Tuesday to tout the fact that they’ve now completed “the first application round in the nation that is designated exclusively for social equity applicants across all license types and categories.”

“The social equity license lottery expands Maryland’s cannabis industry and provides social equity businesses with new economic opportunities in the State,” MCA Director Will Tilburg said. “I would like to thank the Moore-Miller Administration, the Maryland General Assembly and the Office of Social Equity for their continued support in this process.”

MCA Office of Social Equity Executive Director Audrey Johnson said the lottery results “affirm our commitment to fostering diversity and inclusion within the cannabis industry.”

“We are proud to see a significant representation of Black individuals, as well as women, among the selected applicants,” she said. “This milestone underscores our ongoing dedication to providing access for Marylanders who were most harmed by the war on drugs.”


Maryland regulators have consistently promoted the state’s equity-centered approach to implementing legalization, which included exclusively opening up initial licensing applications to businesses owned by people who’ve lived in a designated “disproportionately impacted area” for at least five years.

Prior to the application round, MCA launched an online portal that allowed people to check their eligibility for a social equity marijuana business license before regulators started approving them.

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Meanwhile, a Maryland House of Delegates committee considered a Republican-led bill in February that would reinstate the ability of law enforcement to stop and search vehicles over the smell of marijuana. Democrats pushed back strongly against the proposal, however, noting the state’s history of police disproportionately stopping people of color.

Also that month, committees in both Maryland’s Senate and House heard testimony on legislation that would protect workers from being penalized for off-duty marijuana use. Under the measures, employers would instead have to demonstrate that an individual was impaired while on the clock in order to fire them or take other adverse action.

The Senate additionally passed a bill in February that’s meant to protect gun rights for medical marijuana patients under state law.

Maryland’s marijuana market has proved popular, with the state seeing month-over-month record-breaking sales throughout 2023. Overall sales of cannabis in Maryland reached $96.5 million in December alone.

Meanwhile, lawmakers sent Gov. Wes Moore (D) legislation this week to establish a psychedelics task force to study legal access to substances like psilocybin and DMT.

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Photo courtesy of Philip Steffan.

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