Marijuana has been in the decriminalization process since 1973 with many states over the years passing laws to either authorize the use of marijuana or prohibit it. It is time to stop treating marijuana like a deadly drug, when science and public opinion agree that it is relatively safe for adult recreational and medical use. With recreational and medical marijuana on the verge of nationwide legalization, marijuana growers and dispensaries and grow facilities popping up everywhere.
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LANSING — Michigan regulators announced Thursday a cut in marijuana licensing fees for prospective business owners living in 19 cities whose residents were disproportionately impacted by the drug war.
Under the new “social equity” program, applicants with proposed marijuana establishments in minority, poor communities such as Detroit and Flint and college towns including East Lansing and Mount Pleasant will pay up to 60 percent less in fees. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency determined the communities’ eligibility by analyzing their number of cannabis-related convictions and the poverty rate.
Regulators are required to “positively impact” communities where marijuana enforcement was intense and encourage their residents to participate in the marijuana industry, in accordance with a provision of the 2018 voter-passed ballot initiative legalizing marijuana for recreational use.
Regulators vowed to visit the 19 cities multiple times before the state begins taking applications Nov. 1. They plan to do educational sessions in the communities, help people complete applications and determine their eligibility.
Fees will be reduced by 25 percent for those who have lived in one of the disproportionately affected cities for the last five years. They can get an additional 25 percent cut if they have a marijuana-related conviction, and an extra 10 percent reduction if they were registered medical-marijuana caregivers for at least two years between 2008 and 2017.
“It’s critical that we ensure that those who have been unfairly and disproportionately targeted by decades of prohibition are given the opportunity to participate in this new industry, and our hope is that this program will help accomplish that goal,” said Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association.
Separately this week, Democratic state Sen. Jeff Irwin of Ann Arbor introduced legislation that would automatically expunge the records of 235,000 people who were convicted of possessing or using marijuana. The bill also would let people convicted of growing or intending to distribute pot apply for an expungement, even if they are a repeat offender.