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State of Michigan Releases Racial Equity Workgroup Recommendations

The Black and Brown Cannabis Guild Leadership served on the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency Racial Equity workgroup to lend thought leadership on driving a more equitable and inclusive industry.

January 19, 2021, Michigan MRA – In order to address concerns about equitable opportunity in Michigan’s marijuana industry for people of color, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) released the final recommendations of the Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup today.

“The MRA is committed to making Michigan the model agency in the country, including being a leader in diversity, equity, and inclusion in the marijuana industry,” said MRA Executive Director Andrew Brisbo. “As the agency responsible for implementing and administering the laws governing commercial licensure, the MRA recognizes the importance of equity in opportunity for businesses operating in this newly legalized industry.”

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act – passed by Michigan voters in November 2018 – directed the MRA to create a plan “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.”

As the MRA implemented and expanded this plan, it became clear that the broad language of the statute was not enough to address the specific issue of racial inequities within the commercial industry. Data collected in December 2020 by the MRA on individuals who have an ownership interest in a licensed adult-use establishment in Michigan showed that only 3.8% are Black or African American and 1.5% are Hispanic or Latino.

Accordingly, the MRA established a Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup composed of state and local officials and industry stakeholders as follows:

  • Representatives of the Michigan Legislature

  • Representatives of municipalities with significant minority populations

  • Representatives of minority-focused marijuana industry groups

  • Representatives of minority-focused business groups

  • Attorneys with experience in racial disparities and equity issues pertaining to marijuana

  • Individuals with experience in common barriers to the marijuana industry such as banking, finance, and real estate

The Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup was charged with developing policy ideas and recommendations to address the disparities in ownership and participation in the marijuana industry by people of color and establishing the State of Michigan as a leader on diversity, equity, and inclusion in this industry.

The workgroup met first in July 2020 and continued to meet monthly through December 2020. Subcommittees were established to focus on key concepts and develop proposals to present to the full body, as follows:

  • Social Justice – Focused on expungement and medical marijuana and health disparities in communities of color. Chaired by Anqunette Sarfoh.

  • Business Development – Focused on access to capital; acceleration, mentorship, and coaching; and talent and placement acquisition. Chaired by Cimone Casson.

  • Local Equity – Focused on land acquisition and ownership and local guidance and ordinances. Chaired by Barton Morris.

  • Process and Pathways – Focused on an online one-stop on-demand pipeline; additional license types; and innovation in health, science, and entrepreneurship. Chaired by Eric Foster.

  • Resource Deployment and Strategic Partnerships – Focused on procurement and supplier diversity and strategic partnerships. Chaired by Tatiana Grant.

Each subcommittee developed and presented proposals to the full workgroup that included the for consideration. Members were also asked to identify the implementation priority of the proposals adopted by the group. The adopted proposals are included in this final report in the recommended order of priority:

  1. License Type Proposal

  2. Social Equity Ownership Pathways

  3. Marijuana Education

  4. Michigan Marijuana Market

  5. Municipal Education

  6. Social Equity Presentation Tour

  7. Integration with Local Economic Development

  8. MMFLA Social Equity Model

  9. Corporate Spend Plans

  10. Registry Fund Grants

  11. Survey Data Collection Tool

  12. Event Permits

  13. Licensee Exit Interview and Annual Assessment Survey

  14. Clinical Research Proposal

  15. Intra-Licensee Transaction Tax

  16. Medical Excise Tax

As suggested by the workgroup, the MRA will establish a standing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Workgroup (DEIW) to continue to advance the proposals of the ad hoc Racial Equity Advisory Workgroup, to empower stakeholders to take ownership in the programs that directly impact their communities, and to continue to guide the MRA on issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

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