Legal Blog

Into the Haze: What Is a Social Equity Applicant and How Do You Qualify?

Gavel of judge lying on green leaves of marijuana closeup

On March 2, 2023, Maryland House Bill 556, introduced by Delegate C.T. Wilson and Vanessa E. Atterbeary for the purpose of establishing a regulatory and licensing framework for the expanded adult-use market, was amended (“Amended Bill”).

According to Section 36-101 of the Amended Bill, the term “social equity applicant” means an applicant for a cannabis license or cannabis registration that has at least 65% ownership and control held by one or more individuals who: (i) have lived in a disproportionately impacted area for at least 5 of the 10 years immediately preceding the submission of the application; (ii) attended a public school in a disproportionately impacted area for at least 5 years; or (iii) for at least 2 years, attended a 4-year institution of higher education in the State where at least 40% of the individuals who attend the institution of higher education are eligible for a Pell Grant; or (iv) meets any other criteria established by the Commission on the results of a disparity study. The Amended Bill seeks to establish an Office of Social Equity in the Alcohol, Tobacco and Cannabis Commission (the “Commission”) to identify geographic areas that have been disproportionately impacted. According to the Amended Bill, the term “disproportionately impacted area” means a geographic area that has had above 150% of the State’s 10-year average for cannabis possession charges, as determined by information from the Administrative Office of the Courts.


ABOUT JON WACHS | 301.575.0302

As founder of the firm’s Cannabis Law group, Jon Wachs is a recognized resource on issues relating to the evolving relationship between cannabis law and intellectual property protection.  He has worked with many operators in the cannabis industry to navigate the rules and processes relating to specific state medical cannabis programs.  Mr. Wachs provided essential legal support to obtain required Maryland regulatory approval for the transfer of several licenses affected by a multi-billion dollar business combination.  He also facilitated a series of business transactions involving the sale, purchase and combination of integrated cannabis cultivation, processing and dispensary businesses.