Michigan Social Equity Program to Increase Legal Cannabis Businesses

Now that Michigan has legalized cannabis, state legislators are trying to get 19 communities that were impacted negatively by the “War on Drugs” on board with legal businesses.

According to the Detroit Free Press, state officials have unveiled a social equity plan, which will offer assistance with license applications, reduced fees and access to resources. “We want to provide an opportunity to get into the business to individuals that might not otherwise have that opportunity,” said Andrew Brisbo, director of the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency. “And we’re  focusing our resources on those specific communities that have been disproportionately impacted.”

The state targeted these 19 communities based on poverty rates and cannabis convictions prior to legalization. So far, the cities included are Albion, Benton Harbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Ecorse, Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Inkster, Kalamazoo, Mount Morris, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Niles, Pontiac, River Rouge, Saginaw and Ypsilanti. The goal is to have 50 percent of cannabis business licenses issued to people from these areas. In order to qualify, applicants must be, or have been, residents from one of these places for five years or more.  “I think the incentive here is that . . . the rising tide lifts all boats,” Brisbo said. “This will provide an overall benefit to the community, ensure that individuals operating the facilities are from that community, and you’re providing good economic opportunities.”

Certain benefits will be provided to these particular business owners, including education about the entire licensing process from verified state employees who are set to visit before Nov. 1. License owners will also receive up to a 60 percent reduction in fees related to the business, among other price decreases.

It may take a while for Michigan to reach its goal of 50 percent applicants from these marginalized areas. However, it is a good goal to strive for as officials figure out what recreational cannabis is going to look like in their state.

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