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Michigan regulators lowered marijuana licensing fees for prospective business owners living in 19 communities in which the War on Drugs disproportionately impacted residents.

The state unveiled its social equity plan for the adult recreational marijuana market last week that will offer assistance with marijuana license applications, reduced fees, and easier access to state resources.

The state picked those communities based on the number of marijuana convictions and the poverty rate, designating them as disproportionately impacted by marijuana enforcement laws.

The social equity plan was mandated in the November 2018 ballot to ensure those in the 19 communities will have an opportunity to get into the legal Michigan marijuana industry, David Harns, communications manager at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, told The Center Square.

“We want to provide an opportunity to get into the business to individuals that might not otherwise have that opportunity,” Andrew Brisbo, director of the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency, told The Free Press. “And we’re focusing our resources on those specific communities that have been disproportionately impacted.”

The goal for the state is to have 50 percent of the marijuana business licenses issued in those communities to social equity participants. The primary criteria: a majority owner of the legal marijuana business has to be a resident of that community for at least five years.

Qualified applicants access the following benefits:

  • Licensing process education, social equity program and assistance with license applications from state employee visits.
  • Up to a 60 percent reduction in the $6,000 application fee as well as the license fee, which costs between $1,000 and $40,000 depending on the license type.
  • A 25 percent reduction if they’ve been a resident of one of the 19 communities for at least five years.
  • Another 25 percent reduction if they’re a resident and have a marijuana-related conviction
  • An additional 10 percent reduction if the individual(s) holding majority ownership has been a resident of one of the 19 disproportionately impacted communities for the past five years and was a registered primary caregiver for at least two years between 2008-17.

The 50 percent social equity plan applicant goal may be delayed because a majority of the first recreational licenses will be awarded to those who already hold a medical marijuana license.

The 19 communities 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, Ypsilanti.

Regulators vowed to visit the 19 cities to provide educational sessions before the state accepts applications.

Staff Writer

Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.