Maryland House Bill 556 (“Bill”) seeks to establish the Cannabis Business Assistance Fund (“Fund”) for the purpose of assisting small, minority-owned, and women-owned businesses entering the adult-use cannabis industry. There is an Office of Social Equity in the Alcohol and Tobacco Commission (“ATC”) that will determine which individuals and entities shall be granted loans from the Fund under Section 5-1901 of the Economic Development Article. The Fund shall be administered by the Department of Commerce (“Department”), and the Comptroller shall account for the Fund. The Fund will consist of (1) money appropriated in the State budget to the Fund; (2) revenue distributed to the fund in accordance with Section 2-1302.2 of the Tax – General Article; and (3) any other money from any other source accepted for the benefit of the Fund.
The Fund may only be used for:
- Grants or loans to small, minority-owned, or women-owned businesses for:
- license application assistance for participation in the adult-use cannabis industry;
- assistance with the operating or capital expenses of a business participating in the adult-use cannabis industry; or
- targeted training to support participation in the adult-use cannabis industry; and
- Grants to historically black colleges and universities for cannabis-related programs and business development organizations, including incubators, to train and assist small, minority, and women business owners and entrepreneurs seeking to become licensed to participate in the adult-use cannabis industry.
In accordance with Paragraph 1 of Subsection 2-1302.2, the Department shall prioritize awarding grants and loans to:
- Populations that have been historically disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of laws criminalizing the use of cannabis; and
- Individuals who have been convicted of a violation of a law criminalizing the use of cannabis; and
- May not award grants and loans to small, minority, and women business owners and entrepreneurs with a personal net worth exceeding $1,700,000.
- The Bill defines “personal net worth” as the net value of the assets of an individual remaining after total liabilities are deducted, including the individual’s share of assets held jointly or as community property with the individual’s spouse. The term “personal net worth” does not include the individual’s ownership interest in the applicant, the individual’s equity in the individual’s primary place of residence, or the cash value of any qualified retirement savings plan or individual retirement accounts.
In order to award grants and loans in accordance with Paragraph 1 of Subsection 2-1302.2, the Department shall develop partnerships with: (a) traditional minority-serving institutions in the State and surrounding jurisdictions, including historically black colleges and universities; (b) trade associations representing minority and women-owned businesses; and (c) the Governor’s Office of Small, Minority, and Women Business Affairs.
ABOUT JON WACHS
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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.