- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 4, 2018

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) - A measure passed by the Maryland Senate on Wednesday aims to create opportunities for minority business owners to become licensed medical marijuana growers and processors.

The measure was approved 42-3. The House and Senate still have to reconcile some differences in the legislation before the session ends at midnight Monday to send the bill to Gov. Larry Hogan.

The measure passed by the Senate would increase the number of licenses for medical marijuana growers from 15 to as many as 22. No black-owned companies in Maryland currently have grower licenses. About a third of the state’s population is black.

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Two of the grower’s licenses would go to companies that previously lost their spots in the licensing process because of efforts to promote geographic diversity among the licensees. The measure also would increase the number of allowable marijuana processors from 15 to 30.

Last year, a measure that also would have raised the number of allowable licenses came to a dramatic end when it failed to pass in the final minutes of the 2017 legislative session.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller said he and the Speaker of the House meet regularly and are determined to avoid a repeat of what happened last year.

“We’re going to continue to converse to make certain that a bill as important as that (one) is going to pass,” Miller said.

Maryland dispensaries began selling medical marijuana in December 2017. The market for it is expected to be lucrative because a wide variety of health care professionals, including nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists and doctors, will be able to recommend its use.

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