The number of potential white applicants for cannabis licenses in Michigan far outpaced applicants from communities of color as 79% of those interested in ownership of a cannabis business identified as white while 3.8% were Black and 1.5% were Hispanic or Latino, according to Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) data outlined by the Daily Mining Gazette.
The figures are based on voluntary data collected by the agency as the state does not release demographic statistics of cannabis industry licensees. The MRA’s Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup is formulating recommendations that would create partnerships with large businesses and local municipalities to bring in members from communities disproportionately impacted by prohibition, the report says.
First-year adult-use cannabis sales in Michigan reached $511 million, while medical cannabis sales topped $474 million – a $985 million total that generated more than $100 million in tax revenues, according to the report. Michigan State University researchers estimate that a fully operational and mature cannabis market in Michigan will be worth $3 billion, equaling about $500 million in state tax revenue annually.
The lack of minority participation in the industry – or even lack of interest in industry participation – could be driven, in part, by the lack of business opportunities in Detroit, which still hasn’t issued adult-use licenses and only began accepting applications last month. Motor City licenses at first will only be available to so-called “legacy applicants,” meaning licensees must have “lived in Detroit for 15 of the last 30 years; lived in Detroit for 13 of the last 30 years and are low-income; or lived in Detroit for 10 of the last 30 years and have a past marijuana-related conviction.”
Legacy licenses will be eligible for a 25% discount of fair market value on city property and can access technical assistance and reduced fees. An ordinance by the city council requires half of all of the city’s cannabis licenses to be awarded to legacy applicants.
The MRA workgroup suggested that the agency create a crowdfunding platform on its website that would be a directory of cannabusinesses in communities that struggle to finance new businesses that investors could support, and that the MRA establish a webinar and training sessions for municipalities to learn how to create equitable ordinances for cannabis businesses and share ideas. The workgroup also suggested the MRA operate a social equity tour that would provide a roadmap with bilingual content for applicants to understand the licensing processes and a finds match for social equity applicants.
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