Group hopes to plow path for cannabis growers

Association wants expedited timeframe for ‘social equity designees’ to enter market.
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A Michigan association is trying to accelerate the timeframe for some potential entrepreneurs to get into the growing portion of the adult-use cannabis industry.

The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association, a group of investors who financially support the cannabis infrastructure to grow and process cannabis plants that provide products that are sold to consumers, has submitted a plan to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to help eligible entrepreneurs who are deemed “social equity designees” to get their adult-use-only marijuana licenses a year early.

“Our plan will help reduce legal hurdles for local entrepreneurs from communities disproportionately impacted by outdated marijuana laws looking to participate in Michigan’s regulated cannabis market,” said Steve Linder, Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association executive director. “If enacted, our plan will spur new businesses, economic growth and job creation and contribute to a regulated cannabis market that ensures safe, tested and high-quality cannabis products for all Michiganders.”

According to the MCMA, there is a two-year moratorium on most adult-use-only licenses that started on Dec. 6, 2019. Under the MCMA plan, the timeframe would be moved up to the first of January 2021, which the MRA has the authority to do.

Joe Neller, co-founder and executive vice president of Green Peak Innovations in Dimondale, is a member of MCMA and his company is a vertically integrated recreational and medical cannabis company. He said the law was written to give first preference to individuals and companies with medical marijuana licenses and he wants that two-year moratorium dropped for social equity applicants.

In addition to lifting the two-year moratorium, MCMA’s plan also includes imploring city governments to opt-in, making their cities and municipalities a place where adult-use marijuana can be sold.

“There should be more diversity and inclusive participation in the marijuana industry,” Neller said. “A lot of social equity applicants are individuals who come from communities that were disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs such as individuals who have been incarcerated or who had a lack of access to educational or socioeconomic resources. We recognize that these people should have an opportunity to participate more than they have been allowed. We think that these people can contribute to the industry and make the industry stronger as a whole.”

Although adult-use marijuana is legalized in the state, it is not legal at the federal level and there are people in state prisons with marijuana convictions and then there are those who have been released but still have marijuana-related criminal records. Michigan lawmakers have introduced bills that would automatically clear criminal records for more than 235,000 people without requiring an application to the court that sentenced them.

The bills would “also extend additional opportunities for people convicted of growing or ‘possession with intent to distribute.’ People convicted for those cannabis crimes would be able to apply to a judge to expunge their records, even if they exceed the current limit of more than two misdemeanors or one felony,” according to the legislation.

“Any business folks, especially those who have not had access to capital, need to find a way to gain access into the competitive marketplace before other businesses start pouring in, especially from out of state that come into our adult-use-only space,” Linder said. “We want to make sure that Michigan business folks, specifically those who qualify as social equity designees, are given a lane and early access.”

The Marijuana Business Factbook estimates Michigan’s 2020 adult-use sales will total between $400 million and $475 million and will grow to between $1.9 billion and $2.4 billion by 2024.

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