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In the Media: Lack of Diversity in Cannabis Licenses; Groups Write to Facebook About Korryn Gaines

Korryn Gaines was shot by Baltimore County police. Her 5 year old son was hospitalized for a gunshot wound.
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Korryn Gaines was shot by Baltimore County police. Her 5 year old son was hospitalized for a gunshot wound.

A digest of Baltimore news from local sources.

From the Baltimore Sun: Family wins lead paint judgment for poisoned son — but will they ever get the money?

"Chauncey Liles Jr. was poisoned by lead paint by the time he was 2 years old. Now 18, he says he's struggled ever since.

"He has trouble concentrating. Academic concepts came quickly to other students, he says, but he always had a hard time keeping up. The lead paint chips in the rental property where Liles lived cost him valuable IQ points, his lawyer argued in a successful lawsuit against the landlord.

"'I feel like I'm different and it's not fair,' Liles says.

"Now Liles, of West Baltimore, faces another challenge. The $1.3 million a jury awarded his family last week is in jeopardy because of a legal dispute between a London-based insurance company and Liles' former landlord.

"The case is one of two large lead poisoning judgments awarded this month in lawsuits filed against landlords who are insured by London-based CX Reinsurance Co., which is attempting to rescind its insurance policies with landlords of hundreds of Baltimore properties. The other — a $1.6 million judgment for an East Baltimore teen diagnosed with even higher lead levels in his youth — also is in question.

"CX Reinsurance Co. has filed 15 lawsuits in federal court over the past two years seeking to rescind the insurance policies of landlords who are accused of exposing their tenants to poisonous lead chips and dust.

"Area lawyers say the company's actions could put the cases of at least 100 families in jeopardy because smaller landlords typically don't have enough cash or assets to cover damages awarded to families in lead-poisoning lawsuits.

"The Law Offices of Peter T. Nicholl, a firm that represents many lead-poisoned clients, has filed a complaint with the Maryland Insurance Administration accusing the company of committing 'fraud' to avoid paying potential judgments. State officials said they are continuing an 'active investigation.'

"The insurance company 'categorically rejects the allegations,' said Ed Ruberry, a lawyer for CX Reinsurance. He said the company stands by its allegations that Baltimore-area landlords fraudulently failed to disclose lead violations when purchasing insurance policies decades ago.

"CX Reinsurance said in its court filings that many of the insurance policy applications were signed by Alfred Murray Slattery, an insurance agent who pleaded guilty to fraud in 2003. He admitted he had swindled more than $1.5 million from various companies and created fake insurance policies. Slattery did not respond to a request for comment.

"In a letter to the Maryland Insurance Administration, Ruberry wrote that the complaint filed against the insurance company by the Peter T. Nicholl firm is 'wildly irresponsible.' Ruberry wrote that the motive behind the complaint — which also was sent to state and federal prosecutors and The Baltimore Sun — is likely 'intimidating CX Re, tarnishing its reputation in the community, and influencing ongoing legal proceedings.'

"Lawyer Robert Leonard, who represents Liles, said it could be years before Liles sees a dime of the money his family is owed."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Legislative Black Caucus: Hogan should intervene in medical cannabis licenses

"The head of the Legislative Black Caucus of Maryland is asking the governor to intervene in the awarding of medical cannabis licenses because the selected companies lack diversity, denying minorities the opportunity to get in on the ground floor of an emerging industry.

"'I am completely disappointed with the medical marijuana commission and the decision that they have made in terms of awarding licenses,' said Del. Cheryl D. Glenn, chairwoman of the black caucus. 'Clearly, there was no effort at all to factor in minority participation and make sure that it's inclusive of everybody in the state of Maryland.'

"Members of the black caucus and others have raised concerns that the 15 preliminary licenses for growing medical cannabis and the 15 licenses for processing the drug, which were awarded this month, mostly went to companies led by white men. Lawmakers and some losing applicants are mulling legal action.

"According to the Maryland Cannabis Industry Association, one license went to an African-American-led company and two went to companies led by women. Some critics note that African-Americans are disproportionately prosecuted for marijuana use and now are being shut out of profiting from the legalized industry.

"Members of the Legislative Black Caucus plan to discuss the issue with Gov. Larry Hogan during a meeting Thursday.

"'We're hoping the governor will work with us to fix this,' said Glenn, a Baltimore Democrat. 'I think this would be a black eye on the state of Maryland, and I'm sure the governor doesn't want that for this brand-new industry.'

"Hogan spokesman Douglass Mayer said the governor is concerned about diversity, but there's nothing he can do about the decisions made by an independent government commission.

"The governor's office has absolutely zero role in this process," Mayer said. 'The legislation was passed under a previous administration. Every single commissioner was appointed by the previous administration.'

"The state cannabis commission received 146 applications for licenses to grow the drug and 124 applications for licenses to process it. The applications, with identifying information removed, were reviewed and ranked by Towson University's Regional Economic Studies Institute before the commission voted.

"The commission plans to reveal the rankings of the top applicants this week, but not the scores or reasoning behind the rankings.

"Racial diversity was not a factor in deciding which applicants were awarded the licenses. The commission did take geographic diversity into account, bumping up two lower-ranked companies in order to improve the geographic distribution of the licenses, but did not say which companies got the leg up."

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From the Baltimore Sun: Groups question Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on why Korryn Gaines’ account was shut down

"Dozens of organizations wrote to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Monday to ask him to explain why his company shut down Korryn Gaines' account at the request of police during a standoff between the Randallstown woman and Baltimore County officers.

"The coalition of 41 civil rights and consumer advocacy groups also asked the social media giant to clarify its position on working with law enforcement to censor data and video. In addition to the Gaines case, the groups mentioned the death of Philando Castile in Minnesota, where Castile's fiancee live-streamed the aftermath of an officer shooting him in their car.

"'In light of these recent events, now is a crucial moment to demonstrate that Facebook as an institution does not silence individuals at the request of the police,' the organizations wrote.

"They asked Zuckerberg to develop a policy 'that protects individual civil liberties and is transparent and accountable to the public.'

"A Facebook spokeswoman said the company is reviewing the letter and declined to comment. Earlier this month, the company confirmed that it shut down and later restored Gaines' account at the request of police.

"The groups that wrote to Zuckerberg on Monday include SumOfUs, Color of Change, the Center for Media Justice and Daily Kos. They wrote that broadcasting on Facebook 'is one of the most powerful tools in the world for documenting police brutality and raising awareness of the scale and systemic nature of police misconduct.

"'Increasingly, this platform isn't just a place where news is shared within social networks, but a platform where news is broken,' they wrote. 'If your company agrees to censor people's accounts at the request of police — thereby allowing the police to control what the public sees on Facebook — then it is part of the problem.'

"They also referenced the Facebook CEO's support for the Black Lives Matter movement, writing that last month he 'hung a massive #blacklivesmatter banner on Facebook's campus.'”

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