Michigan Agency Launches Social Equity Program to Tackle Essential Issues

The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) launched a new program to improve social equity in the state’s cannabis industry.

On August 31, the MRA launched the Joint Ventures Pathway Program (JVPP), which is the culmination of an organized discussion that was held earlier this year. 

“Based on a recommendation made by the Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup earlier this year, the JVPP will connect eligible social equity participants—and those seeking to become social equity participants—with adult-use licensees, potential adult-use licensees, and any businesses that wish to work with social equity participants interested in pursuing partnerships, including: joint business ventures, mentorships, incubator program, employment,” the MRA’s statement reads.

When the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act passed in 2018 by voter approval, it stated that the MRA was in charge of creating and enforcing all laws related to commercial cannabis businesses. It also directed the MRA to “create a plan to promote and encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement and to positively impact those communities.”

The MRA’s press release states that the law’s language was not enough to satisfy the needs for social equity in Michigan, so it created the Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup in 2020. The group was made up of local officials, state officials and “industry stakeholders,” such as Representative Sarah Anthony, Senator Marshall Bullock and business owners Anqunette Sarah and Tatiana Grant.  

This group met in July 2020 through December 2020 before releasing its final recommendations in January 2021. 

“The MRA is committed to making Michigan the model agency in the country, including being a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the marijuana industry,” said Andrew Brisbo, MRA executive director, in a press release publishing the group’s final recommendations and explaining their plan for the organization. “As the agency responsible for implementing and administering the laws governing commercial licensure, the MRA recognizes the importance of equity in opportunity for businesses operating in this newly legalized industry.” 

The recommendations included 30 pages of what the state’s social equity model should look like, through the categories of social justice, business development, local equity, process and pathways, resource deployment and strategic partnerships (each category was assigned a team of four to five individuals). It focuses on how social equity could create a more inclusive industry for the state. 

In detail, the workgroup organized concepts for their respective category, identified any statutory or administrative rule changes that are needed, talked about where funding would come from and established specific responsibilities for the MRA.

According to data from Bureau of Justice Statistics, 80 percent in federal prison and 60 percent of people in state prison, who were incarcerated because of a drug offense, are Black or Latino. 

Results from data released by the MRA show that in 2020, only 3.8 percent of cannabis business owners were Black, and only 1.5 percent were Latino.

If you’re a Michigan resident and social equity eligible individual who’s interested in partnering with the JVPP, you can go here to submit your information. Likewise, if you’re a Michigan business owner who seeks to partner with social equity participants, you can become a JVPP partner here.

Michigan is already being noticed as one of the country’s thriving cannabis markets. Not only are efforts for social equity well under way, but the industry’s product variety and selection is rapidly growing.

State officials are working quickly to address industry concerns, such as the regulation of Delta-8 THC products. Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel published a brief earlier this month that those who are fired for off-the-job cannabis consumption should still qualify for unemployment.

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