Yesterday, the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) announced plans to expand the state’s social equity program. The changes impact both eligibility for the program and the benefits provided to those eligible.
On the eligibility side, the MRA has expanded the definition of disproportionately impacted communities from 41 to 184, substantially increasing the number of individuals eligible for social equity status. On the benefits side, the MRA will:
- Establish an MRA job fair later this year and provide for assistance in connecting qualified applicants with training resources and job postings;
- Add a 40% fee reduction for applicants who have been convicted of marijuana-related felonies (unless the conviction was for distributing marijuana to a minor);
- Add a 25% fee reduction for applicants who have been convicted of marijuana-related misdemeanors (again, unless the conviction was for distributing marijuana to a minor);
- Add a 25% fee reduction for residency in a disproportionately impacted community for a total of 5 cumulative years of the last 10 years; and
- Add a 10% fee reduction for those registered as a primary caregiver under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act for at least 2 years between 2008-2017.
The expanded program appears to be an attempt to increase participation in the program and fulfill its stated purpose: “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.” To date, MLive.com reports that only two recreational licenses have been awarded to participants in the social equity program—one for a retailer and one for an event organizer—although 172 applicants have been deemed qualified under the social equity program. In contrast, we and many observers believe that nearly all recreational licenses will be awarded to social equity applicants in Illinois.