NILES, Mich. (WNDU) - The war on drugs was not without its casualties.
The state of Michigan has new marijuana laws that give special consideration to those hurt by the old laws.
Michigan has a formula to figure out which of its communities were hit the hardest.
“We looked a counties that exceeded the state average for marijuana-related convictions, and then inside those counties, we look at communities that have 30% or more of the population living below the federal poverty level,” said Jacob Nevin, Social Equity representative with Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency.
The state has identified the 41 hardest hit communities where marijuana crimes may have cost people access to things like student loans, employment or public housing.
Six of those communities are in the southwest corner of the state: Benton Harbor, Coloma, Eau Claire, Niles, Sodus and Watervliet.
A conscious effort is being made to ensure that people hurt by the old marijuana laws will be helped by the new.
“So, one big part of our program is fee reduction,” Nevin said.
On Thursday, Nevin and others who oversee the Social Equity provisions of the new marijuana law passed by voters in November of 2018 came to Niles to help candidates apply for adult-use marijuana business licenses at fee discounts of up to 65%.
Having a prior marijuana-related criminal conviction alone was enough to earn a 25% discount.
“With medical marijuana facilities, there was a lot more restrictive language. A marijuana conviction or any conviction may have kept you out from participating in the medical side,” Nevin pointed out. “So, if you've been a resident for one of these communities for the past five years and have a commitment to operate your marijuana establishment in one of the communities, that's immediately a 25% fee reduction. There are also additional fee reductions that are available to those residents that have marijuana-related convictions -- that’s another 25% fee reduction.”
For example, the Class C grower's license has an application fee of $4,000. Qualified Social Equity applicants who have lived in their community for five years and are committed to doing business there qualify for a 25% discount, which takes $1,000 off the fee.
With a marijuana-related criminal conviction, another 25% would be deducted, bringing the fee down to $2,000.
Applicants can receive another 10% reduction if they served as a medical marijuana primary caregiver for at least two years between 2008 and 2016.
Nevin says qualified applicants don’t have to live in the municipal boundaries of the designated Social Equity communities. Those who live in nearby townships with the designated community’s mailing address also qualify.
If a person lives in a community that refuses to allow adult-use marijuana businesses, that person can apply to do business in another designated Social Equity community.
The state began accepting adult-use business licenses on Nov. 1, and earlier this week it awarded its first five adult-use business licenses.
The only dispensary license went to a company operating out of Ann Arbor.
On Wednesday, the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives passed a measure that would legalize marijuana at the federal level.
That measure calls for a 5% tax on cannabis products that would provide job training and legal assistance to those hardest hit by the war on drugs.
The American Civil Liberties Union states that African Americans are 3.7 times more likely to be arrested on marijuana charges than their white counterparts.