A bill to diversify Maryland’s medical marijuana industry received final approval in the state Senate on Wednesday — after a similar effort to bring in more minority-owned businesses faced a bitter defeat in the final minutes of last year’s session.

About one-third of Maryland residents are African American, but none of the 14 companies that have lucrative licenses to grow medical marijuana are led by black executives. The bill would increase the number of licenses for growers and processors, and it specifies that those licenses will be awarded in a process that gives preference to minority-owned businesses.

“For generations, African Americans have been disproportionately affected by marijuana laws,” said Del. Cheryl D. Glenn (D-Baltimore City), the bill’s sponsor. “To have this industry up and running without African Americans and other minorities involved as owners is shameful.”

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Members of both chambers will have to agree to changes {snip}

Vicky Ivory-Orem, an African American judge in Prince George’s County whose application for a growing license was rejected, said she had watched the bill progress with “mixed emotions.” She said she appreciated that minorities would be given another opportunity to compete for licenses but wondered why some of the new processing licenses were reserved for those who are already winners in the current system.

“It’s an all-white male industry, and it’s a billion-dollar industry,” Ivory-Orem said. “It’s not just people who can afford lobbyists or go knock on a senator’s door who should be able to partake — I’m not sure this bill fixes this.”

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