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Maryland Medical marijuana industry needs a diversity strategy

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Md. Medical marijuana industry needs a diversity strategy

Jorge Eduardo Castillo, Doris J.  Cammack-Spencer

New Frontier Data estimates that the legal cannabis market in the U.S. was worth an estimated $6.6 billion in 2016 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 16 percent, reaching more than $24 billion by 2025. The medical cannabis market was worth an estimated $4.7 billion in 2016, and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 12 percent, reaching more than $13 billion by 2025.

While the lack of racial diversity of Maryland’s preliminary license holders has drawn a lot of attention, this is only one part of the conversation that needs to take place. The issue isn’t just the race of the license holders, but that there is no plan to involve or encourage minority participation. Consider the medical marijuana value chain — every facet of this industry from investors to the information technology used to track the plants to the logistics of distribution to the professional services utilized for regulatory review.

 The Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and the Southern Maryland Minority Chamber of Commerce are advocating for a diversity mindset for the medical marijuana industry in Maryland — not simply a wish of diversity inclusion, but a strategic, inclusive plan that incorporates diversity as the fabric of this nascent industry in Maryland: from owners to investors to the farmers and hourly worker.

Consider Maryland’s renewable energy portfolio. While we remain in conversations with our state officials regarding the role minority businesses should play in opportunities to grow the use of wind energy and solar energy, these conversations are happening after the industry has taken off in Maryland. Further, consider Maryland’s agricultural heritage. A U.S. Department of Agriculture examination of the history of agriculture demonstrates how discrimination and obstacles have decimated the economic strength of African American farmers (“Black Farmers in America, 1865-2000, The Pursuit of Independent Farming and the Role of Cooperatives”, USDA).

 We have before us an opportunity to transform our state. Imagine that Maryland could be a global economic cluster model for the medical cannabis industry and we could export our knowledge to others. Imagine that our economic development successes could be touted as inclusive and truly forward-thinking. Imagine that we were able to include minorities at every level of strategic thought.

Minority stakeholders must be part of the process. We are engaging legislators and regulatory officials to do our part to bring solutions and to add our voices to the collaboration.

Jorge Eduardo Castillo (chair@mdhcc.org ) is chief executive officer of the Maryland Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and chairman and president of its board of directors. Doris J. Cammack-Spencer (Chair@SMMCOC.org) is chief executive officer of the Southern Maryland Minority Chamber of Commerce, and chairman and president of its board of directors.