Michele Obama once said “when they go low we go high.” But not the Maryland Black Caucus (MBC). For them, “when they go low we get high [just kidding] – it is racism!” In a pathetic example of playing the race card, the Maryland Black Caucus screamed foul when there were no awards of Maryland’s 15 marijuana grower licenses to African-Americans. But it all falls on deaf ears in a Maryland legislature lambasted by the MBC with overtures of claimed corruption. And outward – and ill-founded – claims of racism.
This, after a double-blind selection process – yes, double-blind – utilized by the Maryland marijuana commission to select the 15 winners on merit. Race wasn’t known, sex wasn’t known, national origin wasn’t known, age wasn’t known, sexual orientation wasn’t known. A good old-fashioned American contest based purely on merit. A process that was in place for years that no one, including the Maryland Black Caucus, complained about. But after, as it turned out, no group that was majority owned by African-Americans was selected, suddenly the Maryland Black Caucus screams racism. They demand a special session of the Maryland legislature to correct this horrifying wrong. How terribly demeaning to the African-American community, and frankly, to the entire community. But their screaming fell on deaf ears. As it should.
Hallow Claims of Racism Makes Society Tone-Deaf to Real Racism
No, racism does not lurk under every stone. African-Americans lose contests just like Caucasians, and Koreans, and Chinese and Japanese and every group in our multi-cultural society. This is what our free markets, and American exceptionalism, is all about.
The claimed dream for an identity-free world in which we judge a person (if at all) on merit alone is a distant fantasy. The world we live in, and in which the Maryland Black Caucus apparently insists we live in, is one where “identity” is heralded at every turn as the reason for failure. I lose because the world is against my identity, not because I failed to win on the merits. The MBC theory must be that if one-third of Marylanders, in this instance, are black, then by God one-third of all grower licenses must – must – be handed out to black Americans. Otherwise, it’s racism! Merit has nothing to do with it. Damn the torpedoes and call a Special Session to correct this injustice!
We suppose the MBC simply wants a set-aside. Everything in life, we suppose, should be a set-aside. The State should create an equal outcome in every endeavor. We believe African-Americans crave the same self-respect and sense of accomplishment that most other human beings desire. I’m as good as anyone else. Better even. All that I ask for from my society is an opportunity to compete. You don’t have to reserve a spot for me if I fail. Let the best man win, pure and simple. Give me a chance and let me prove my worth.
Maryland’s Marijuana Laws
Maryland’s marijuana grower laws were actually well conceived. Issue 15 licenses, independently through the recommendation of a third-party commission on a double-blind contest. Let those 15 licensees spend the money and take the risks to establish the market for this new industry. The State will protect those 15 against more competition for just two years. That seems long enough. Then, after those two years the State conducts a market study and determines whether the 15 growers are adequately supplying the market. If they aren’t, issue additional licenses to meet the then-demand. Very well thought out, fair and reasonable.
The Maryland Black Caucus never complained about a single word of this statutory structure. And why should they – it all made perfect sense. Newly formed markets can be fragile, and early over-supply can irreparably damage market participants. Too much competition can be terrible. Just look at the early railroad industry. Applicants for the 15 licenses risked multitude of millions of dollars in reliance on this statutory structure. The State of Maryland induced them to risk their capital on the basis of a process, and a structure for the market, that everyone agreed to.
No Sanctity of Government Promises
But according to the Maryland Black Caucus, it doesn’t matter that the State of Maryland, the government of all of the people, had made such promises. In their view, the “injustice” of no awards to African-Americans is racism, pure and simple, and everyone should get out of their way to fix it. Injustice begets injustice. Their solution – issue five new licenses now for minority-led groups. It doesn’t matter to the Maryland Black Caucus that there is no market need for these new five licenses. They don’t care that the 15 Maryland-based investor groups, full of Marylanders who risked their capital based on the law that the Maryland Black Caucus approved, could suffer grievously. The Maryland Black Caucus ignores the principle that governments should not make such promises to their citizens, enshrine them in law, and then renege. No, none of that matters. It’s racism.
The Lack of Racial Preference Was in the Open
It’s not as if Maryland hadn’t thought about granting African-Americans and other minority racial groups a preference. Whether that is appropriate or not we leave to another day. The original law contemplated granting a preference based on race. But the Maryland Attorney General opined that preference for minority business owners may violate the Maryland Constitution. In his view to grant a racial preference requires a study to evaluate whether discrimination exists in the medical cannabis industry. If, and only if, such discrimination was established could a racial preference be considered. None of this is a surprise to anyone. All of this was in the wide open for all to see.
Eleven of the 15 Maryland approved growers reported demographic data to the Maryland cannabis commission. That data revealed that 85% of the eleven winning owners are white, 8% are black, and 7% had a third racial identity. Maryland also issued licenses for “processing”, and the relevant data there indicates that 73% of the winning owners were white, 15% black, and 12% were a third racial identity. The Maryland Black Caucus dismisses all of this. The Maryland marijuana commission provided that data. According to the MBC the Commission, they claim without evidence, is “corrupt.” That’s certainly responsible leadership. Feed paranoia without explanation. Do anything to support your claim of racism so you can get your way.
It’s All About Money
“The minority community deserves a piece of the action,” according to attorney William Murphy, who shared a post-mortem platform with the Maryland Black Caucus. Well, everyone certainly wants a “piece of the action”, to use Mr. Murphy’s reference. That’s why everyone was free to submit a growers application. And that’s why the commission used a double-blind selection process – so that everyone who submitted would get a fair chance. This was all inherently fair to all participants. Indeed, what could be fairer. Unless “fairness” has nothing to do with it and you just want a set-aside.
When the Maryland Black Caucus couldn’t persuade other legislators to make the statutory changes they demanded “it almost makes you feel like you’re on a plantation,” according to Black Caucus member Bilal Ali.
Yep, that’s leadership. That’s beneficial to the African-American community. We suggest it is demeaning. And it falls on deaf ears, as it should.