It’s no secret that the use of cannabis has carried with it a strong social stigma. That social stigma and prohibition of recreational cannabis use dates back to the 1920s. However, there has been no shortage of propaganda and negative publicity surrounding cannabis use lasting well into the modern age.
Slowly but surely-the previous generations-old social stigma has been reduced. As of 2019, 11 states across the USA, and nationwide in Canada have legalized the recreational use of cannabis.
Municipalities are beginning to see the benefits of cannabis rather than simply the negatives. It all started in 2012, when the states of Colorado and Washington voted to completely lift all prohibitions against recreational marijuana.
Since then, the flood gates have rapidly been opening for a booming cannabis industry within the United States and Canada.
Of course, this has left many people wondering what happens to the tens of thousands of non-violent offenders serving time in federal prisons for cannabis related charges.
The State of Michigan was one of the first states to toss their hat into the recreational cannabis ring. In 2018, the State voted to legalize the recreational use of marijuana. Michigan has historically had some of the most strictly enforced cannabis laws.
As such, cities like Detroit have disproportionately seen mass levels of cannabis related incarceration over the years. Therefore, the State of Michigan has launched what they call a ‘Social Equity’ cannabis program.
The State of Michigan has proposed a program that would help promote careers in the cannabis industry in communities across the State that have been most impacted by the negative effects of cannabis prohibition; it aims to repair the damage that the war on cannabis has caused in these communities.
This program is spearheaded by the Marihuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) and aims to assist in creating businesses, distributing licenses, and the creation of jobs in the cannabis industry in these targeted communities e.g. Flint and Detroit.
Over the last several months the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) has sought the input of stakeholders in various working groups that included over 150 participants. In addition, they have distributed various online surveys on the matter. The goal was to determine what criteria the MRA should be using to help identify what communities in Michigan have been most disproportionately affected by the prohibition of marijuana and how they should be helped. Moreover, these surveys also helped to determine the criteria they should seek out for certain individuals who would qualify for the services that the Social Equity Program would offer, as well as what those services should be.
The MRA was able to draw on these results and determine the criteria that the stakeholders deemed most important in these cases. The primary criteria seek to address individuals with cannabis related convictions. The secondary criteria is to assist communities with a high rate of poverty.
Using this criteria, 20 municipalities were selected for this program. These municipalities were identified by looking at counties where the cannabis related conviction rates were greater than the overall statewide average. From those counties identified, they then identified the communities that had at least 30% or more of their community living below the federal poverty rate.
Representatives from the MRA will visit these communities to educate and provide courses on how the process of an application will work. They will also assist the potential applicants during the application process and assess if they meet the necessary criteria for assistance.
The potential applicants in these municipalities who are seeking licensure will also be granted reduced state fees by the State. In some cases, the applicants in these areas will be granted up to 60% reduction in the total costs of fees.
The aim of the Social Equity program is for the MRA to educate, assist, and encourage participation to stimulate the economy in these communities, and employ members of those communities who have been the most affected by marijuana prohibition.
The communities that have been chosen for this program are:
The state must issue guidance to banks and other financial institutions about how to handle the money of marijuana-related businesses, under boilerplate language pending in the Michigan Department of Insurance and Financial Services (DIFS) budget.
The direction is seen as encouraging from one marijuana industry group to help address the issue of marijuana businesses finding it hard to bank, which is attributed to pot’s classification as a prohibited Schedule I drug at the federal level. That’s created the logistical and safety issue of a growing industry being conducted in mostly cash.
“It’s very much appreciated that the legislature is doing its part to ensure Michigan’s licensed cannabis businesses have access to the same financial institutions as other legal business,” said Josh HOVEY, spokesperson for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MCIA). “Hopefully, the guidance DIFS offers next year will encourage more banks to open their doors to our industry.”
However, Hovey said the legalization of marijuana at the federal level “would be even more helpful.” He said the U.S. House this week passed the SAFE Banking Act, legislation designed to protect banks and credit unions from penalties if they accept deposits from cannabis-related businesses (See “Will Legalized Pot Generate Lots Of Cash? Bank On It,” 5/14/19).
Patricia HERNDON, executive vice president of government relations for the Michigan Bankers Association (MBA), said banks are regulated at the federal level. Rescinding of the so-called “Cole memo” by the federal government under President Donald TRUMP removed “protections for financial institutions with regard to what is considered federal money laundering of funds from state legal, federally illegal cannabis transactions,” she said.
So while Herndon said banks welcome any sort of governmental guidance when it comes to doing business with cannabis, she thinks it will be difficult for a state regulator to draft guidance on marijuana businesses, specifically.
The language in SB 0141 specifically requires DIFS, by Jan. 1, 2020, to “draft and issue an examination manual and letter of guidance” to state-chartered financial institutions that choose to provide banking and financial services to marijuana-related businesses.
DIFS spokesperson Andrea MILLER said the department was not involved in the drafting of this boilerplate language and said it was added “during the end stage of the budget process.”
Hundreds of individuals joined in the festivities to support our Michigan Veterans! It was a wonderful night honoring two Veterans, one from the Gulf War and one from WWII. Attendees were able to enjoy the changing of the flag, wonderful food and deserts and quality time with our great veterans.
SALUTE OUR WARRIORS, was held on Thursday, July 11th, 2019. Many elected officials, business and community leaders were in attendance. All the donations raised support the Fallen and Wounded Soldiers Fund that is for Michigan service members who serve & protect our country.
Additionally, the fund helps others see the good our service men and women do through their accomplishments and the sacrifices they make on our behalf. They are a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c) (3) organization. Their members do not receive any financial compensation for their efforts.
FWSF is all volunteer effort, with everyone working from the kindness of their hearts and dedicated to supporting our armed forces. They are honored to help families with their expenses, to visit their injured loved ones in hospitals as well as supporting handicapped victims, and the spouses and children of those fallen soldiers.