ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Data on discrimination in Maryland's overall economy provides "a strong basis in evidence" to support helping businesses owned by women and minorities in the types of industries relevant to the state's fledgling medical marijuana industry, a state report released Wednesday said.

The report, released by Gov. Larry Hogan's administration, was conducted by Jon Wainwright, an economist and managing director of NERA Economic Consulting. Wainwright noted a state disparity study from last year that found discrimination continues to adversely affect minority- and women-owned firms throughout Maryland.

The report noted that last year's study found evidence to suggest that economy-wide state contracting disparities in Maryland's relevant markets are "even greater than disparities in the public sector." The report said the difference may be because the state has operated an assertive minority business enterprise program to remedy discrimination — a program that would tend to reduce, but not yet eliminate, the effects of discrimination in public procurement.

"Absent such affirmative remedial efforts by the State, I would expect to see evidence in the relevant markets in which the medical cannabis licensees will operate that is consistent with the continued presence of business discrimination," Wainwright wrote in the report.

The report supports efforts by lawmakers who are sponsoring legislation that would create five new medical marijuana cultivation licenses for minority-owned businesses. None of the 14 companies licensed to grow marijuana in the state has black owners, even though nearly one-third of the state's population is black. A bill last year to add licenses failed to pass in the closing minutes of the session.

Maryland's long-stalled medical marijuana program got off the ground last month, when some dispensaries began selling medical marijuana in the state. Companies have shown a strong interest in Maryland, because the market is expected to be lucrative. That's because marijuana is available for any severe condition for which medical treatments have been ineffective. Nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists and nurse midwives can recommend its use, as well as doctors.