On September 1, 2023, Maryland’s Office of Social Equity released cannabis social equity eligibility criteria and a detailed explanation of the social equity verification process. Please see the information below and reach out to a member of the Shulman Rogers Cannabis Practice Group with any questions or assistance.
Linthicum Heights, MD – The Office of Social Equity today released the eligibility criteria to be considered a social equity applicant for the upcoming Fall 2023 Cannabis License Application Period.
“As the only state in the country to exclusively reserve the first round of new cannabis licenses to social equity applicants, Maryland continues to lead the nation in promoting access and equity in the adult-use cannabis market,” said Gov. Wes Moore. “Leaving no one behind means ensuring that communities that have borne the brunt of misguided policies have an equal shot at benefitting from this lucrative industry.”
The Office of Social Equity, established by the Cannabis Reform Act of 2023, is an independent executive agency that issues official guidance on the eligibility requirements to qualify as a social equity applicant, based on the statutory framework. The Maryland Cannabis Administration, a new agency regulating medical and adult-use cannabis in the State, will administer the social equity verification process and the license application process.
“With the introduction of our new social equity eligibility criteria for the upcoming cannabis licensing application round, Maryland embarks on a transformative trajectory. This forward-looking measure underscores our dedication to rectifying past injustices and ensuring a level playing field,” said Office of Social Equity Executive Director Audrey Johnson. “I affirm that by facilitating equal opportunities, we reshape the cannabis industry’s narrative, enabling marginalized voices to craft a future that’s rich in diversity and vitality. Over the next months, our office will offer support and technical assistance to social equity applicants, making sure they possess the tools necessary to compete fairly for license awards.”
Using data provided by the Maryland Judiciary, the Maryland State Department of Education, and the Maryland Higher Education Commission, the Office of Social Equity conducted statistical analyses to arrive at the eligibility criteria. A social equity applicant is an entity that is at least 65% owned and controlled by one or more individuals who meet at least one of the following criteria:
About the Office of Social Equity
The Office of Social Equity, an independent agency established by the Cannabis Reform Act of 2023, is charged with providing resources and support for historically disadvantaged individuals and businesses seeking to enter the adult-use cannabis market. The vital responsibilities of the office include implementing technical assistance programs for qualifying social equity applicants and licensees, reviewing regulations and laws through an economic equity and social justice lens, and supporting key programs including the Community Repair and Reinvestment Fund and the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund. The mission of the Office of Social Equity is to provide resources and support for historically disadvantaged individuals and businesses seeking to enter the Maryland adult-use cannabis industry.
The Cannabis Reform Act establishes an initial business licensing round for eligible social equity applicants. A social equity applicant is an applicant with at least 65% ownership and control held by one or more individuals who meet the statutory definition of social equity applicant (details below). Only verified social equity applicants may apply for a standard or micro grower, processor, or dispensary license in the first round. To access the Maryland Cannabis Administration’s (MCA) Social Equity Verification Portal and verify eligibility as a social equity applicant, an individual must first demonstrate their interest in, and understanding of, the upcoming licensing process by completing the following form: Cannabis Business Licensing Interest Form.
By verifying an individual’s status as a social equity applicant in advance of the licensing round, the MCA aims to further streamline the application process for prospective licensees.
The Cannabis Reform Act defines social equity applicant as meeting ONE or more of the following criteria:
Address documentation supporting a minimum of five years will be validated using a combination of two data points per address. Failure to provide the requested documentation may result in the delay of your certification or inability to successfully submit a license application.
The table below shows documentation that will be accepted by the MCA to verify that an individual meets the above criteria:
2 A list of currently operating public schools located in disproportionately impacted areas in Maryland may be found here on the Office of Social Equity’s website.
3 If unable to produce or identify public school records, individuals are still encouraged to use the State’s 3rd party vendor, as they may be able to verify an individual’s attendance at the particular school without school documentation. You will be asked to submit: School name, location, dates of attendance, major/degree (if applicable), if graduated, date of graduation (if applicable), and name while attending.
Individuals Who Have Not Lived In or Attended a Public School in Maryland In an Identified
Disproportionately Impacted Area
If you are seeking social equity status based on living in or attending a public school in a disproportionately impacted area outside of the State of Maryland, you still must use MCA’s Social Equity Verification Portal. Additionally, you must provide data that indicates the geographic area in question meets the State’s definition of a disproportionately impacted area.
After completing your social equity applicant verification portal, you may receive additional communications from the MCA with the specific data requirements to verify the location as a disproportionately impacted area.
Gaining Access to the Verification Portal
The MCA is working with a third party (Creative Services Inc.) to verify eligibility as a social equity applicant.
Individuals interested in verifying their status as a social equity applicant must complete the Cannabis Business Licensing Interest Form to receive a personalized link to the portal.
The Social Equity Verification Portal will open on Friday, September 8, for a period of 60 days, closing on Tuesday, November 7. Upon successful completion of the form, you will receive a personalized link via email within 1-2 business days. For any interest form completed in advance of September 8th, you will receive a link upon the opening of the portal.
Verified Social Equity Applicants
Once verified, an individual will be granted a social equity applicant verification number and corresponding report that they must submit along with their application.
Verification of one’s social equity applicant status does not:
The verification of social equity status is a service being provided at no cost to the prospective applicant. A completed report from the State’s vendor is a required component of the forthcoming application. This portal will close prior to the beginning of the application being open. Please direct any questions to email@example.com.
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