With $42 million having been announced in medical marijuana revenue during the first four months of sales in Michigan, the state’s policymakers face a distinct challenge. How do you make sure that a decent slice of that money goes to those who have had their lives turned upside-down by Drug War prohibition over the years? The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency [MRA] made part of its strategy to this end clear this week when it released details for a sweeping social equity program that will support cannabis entrepreneurs in 19 communities.
“We want to provide an opportunity to get into the business to individuals that might not otherwise have that opportunity,” commented MRA director Andrew Brisbo. “And we’re focusing our resources on those specific communities that have been disproportionately impacted.”
For qualifying applicants, the state has pledged to supply up to a 60 percent discount in application and licensing fees. Individuals will be eligible for more support if they have lived in one of the 19 communities for five years, if they have a marijuana criminal conviction, or if they have been a registered cannabis caregiver for at least two years between 2008 and 2017. Applicants in the program will also have access to industry educational resources, and easier access to governmental agencies that regulate “taxes, environmental laws, business registration, health and human services and occupational safety,” according to the Detroit Free Press.
The jurisdictions where the social equity program will take place are Albion, Benton Harbor, Detroit, East Lansing, Ecorse, Flint, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Inkster, Kalamazoo, Mt. Morris, Mt. Pleasant, Muskegon, Muskegon Heights, Niles, Pontiac, River Rouge, Saginaw, and Ypsilanti. They were selected because they had higher than state average rates of cannabis-related convictions, and for high poverty rates.