MARYLAND: A newly filed Super Political Action Committee (PAC) is focusing its advocacy on responding to politicians who’ve prevented restorative justice to families and communities harmed by the war on drugs. Uplift Action Fund, Inc., led by Kevin Ford, Jr, a veteran of cannabis reform, is organizing supporters to ensure that Maryland’s cannabis legalization is not only fair and equitable, but most importantly, just.
“We must all do our part to ensure that legalization passes this November,” Ford says. “Subjective policing has traumatized black communities across the country for generations as a result of cannabis criminalization. Right now, all eyes are on Maryland. This is our chance to take the lead on a national issue by collaborating to develop a solution aimed at building an equitable and inclusive industry, with the goal of repairing the harm done to the most affected communities.”
According to the ACLU, Black people in Maryland are still 2.1 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people, despite consuming at the same rate.
Uplift Action Fund, Inc. (UAF), a 501(c)4 organization, is implementing a two-phase approach to ensure restorative justice for the citizens of Maryland who have been most harmed and influence federal and state policy that legalizes adult-use cannabis.
Phase 1 is running a Get Out The Vote campaign to encourage Black voters to vote in support of cannabis legalization during the general election. The PAC is focusing its efforts on four jurisdictions: Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Prince George’s County, and Charles County.
Uplift is being advised by Baker Strategy Group, led by Rushern L. Baker, III, a former Prince George’s County Executive and two-time candidate for governor.
“Even as Maryland’s medical cannabis industry continues to struggle with minority participation, the legalization of adult-use cannabis is a critical step toward righting the injustices of the war on drugs,” said Baker, a co-sponsor on the state’s first-ever medical cannabis bill nearly two decades ago. “This is an extremely important issue. These communities hardest hit need to be recompensed in some way from legalization, but in order for that to happen, we must fully engage ourselves in the legislative process. That means getting out to vote for question 4 and other offices up and down the ballot while remaining engaged with organizations like Uplift after the election to make certain the new laws are just.”
Many citizens are unsure of what voting for legalization actually means for them and their families. Once the referendum passes, certain measures will go into effect legalizing the possession of cannabis by an adult 21 and over, but lawmakers will still need to pass additional legislation the following session to establish a legally regulated cannabis marketplace.
Following Election Day, Uplift’s focus will transition to its phase 2 priorities, which are to:
educate our community about what legalization means for them,
implement an education and business development training program for minorities and women interested in “cannapreneurship” within all sectors of the industry,
provide reentry services to Marylanders that are released from the criminal justice system so that they may have pathways to employment within the legal cannabis industry, and
provide advocacy services aimed at ensuring Maryland sets a national standard for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion in a legalized cannabis market.
Among the group’s initial supporters and advisors is Hope Wiseman, owner of Mary and Main medical cannabis dispensary in Capitol Heights, MD. “As one of the few Black-owned cannabis businesses in the State, I understand the woes that Black entrepreneurs, and small operators, face in the cannabis industry,” said Wiseman, who is the youngest Black woman to own and operate a dispensary in the country. “As Maryland rolls out its legal, regulated industry, it’s imperative that our community sticks together to ensure that small operators not only have equal access to opportunities but more importantly have the resources necessary to start-up and sustain within the industry.”