Cannabis in Michigan: Detroit Legacy Program to Benefit the City’s Underserved

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Voters may have legalized recreational cannabis in Michigan at the end of 2018, but Detroit has been in no rush to join in the fray. Though the state officially launched its legal cannabis regime in late 2019, its largest city won’t begin rolling out a framework of its own until early 2021 with the Detroit Legacy program.

Cannabis in Michigan: Detroit Legacy Program to Benefit the Underserved

To the uninitiated, the apparent foot-dragging would seem counterintuitive. A blue-collar city abandoned by the industry upon which it was built, Detroit has limped along for decades, surviving on the scraps of commerce. A fully legal cannabis regime could be the lifeline the city needs and would only make sense, considering the city decriminalized the plant back in 2012.

City councilmember James Tate, the architect of the impending regime, insisted from the beginning that the Motor City exercise patience and restraint in their implementation in order to ensure opportunity for all. As a result, the Detroit Legacy program, which will finally launch in January, shows an admirable commitment to social equity and serves as a stinging example of what cannabis in Michigan can be.

Here’s what the program looks like.

Bringing Social Equity to Cannabis in Michigan

Councilmember Tate’s vision coalesced as the Detroit Legacy program, the resident-first provision that serves as the heart of the city’s newly announced marijuana ordinance. As the name implies, the goal of the program is to give lifelong Detroiters a chance to compete for a stake. Hypothetically, this will be achieved through a variety of resident-only perks including:

  • A six-week exclusive early licensing period,
  • Reduced municipal application fees,
  • Priority consideration, guaranteed through a requirement that a minimum of 50% of the licenses are granted to qualified Legacy applicants, and
  • The option to purchase city-owned property for only 25% of fair market value.

Doubling down on the guarantee of prioritization, city officials have implemented a rule requiring licensing to stop altogether if it threatens to subtract from that 50% ratio. Meanwhile, to deepen their commitment, the city is actively working with private lenders and non-profits to encourage and facilitate resident-owned marijuana upstarts.

Who Qualifies as Legacy?

Not surprisingly, you can’t just show up to the application office with a piece of mail to prove residency. To qualify for the Legacy program, you must fall under one of three categories:

  • You have lived in Detroit for a minimum of 15 years,
  • You have lived in Detroit for a minimum of 13 years and can prove you fall below a maximum income threshold, or
  • You have lived in Detroit for a minimum of 10 years and have a cannabis conviction.

The bottom line is officials are looking to help Detroiters with deep roots and shallow pockets while seeing if they can’t undo some of the damage caused by the drug war along the way.

Program Viability Has Yet to be Determined

The future within this regime looks promising, but uncertainties still loom. The process to get here was controversial from the beginning, with many would-be operatives decrying the lost year of revenue and many more around the state bemoaning the obvious slant toward city residents. Since cannabis in Michigan is still controversial, nearly 1,400 cities and towns have opted out, shrinking the pie for the entire state. As a result, everyone wants in on its most populous city.

Cannabis in Michigan: Detroit Legacy Program to Benefit the Underserved

Some have expressed concern over the constitutionality of the ordinance, suggesting the Legacy program too heavily favors one race over another, despite the fact that unlike Ohio’s 2016 stumble, race isn’t mentioned anywhere in the statutes. Others worry the program will be manipulated by wealthy outsiders using a city resident as the token owner while siphoning the profits out of town or even out of state. Since ownership ratios for qualifying businesses won’t be specified until January, that unfortunate scenario still looms as a potential pitfall.

Basically, the concept of the Detroit Legacy program is admirable in theory, but whether it’s executable is yet to be seen.

Time Is of the Essence

Uncertainties or no, one year after legal recreational use of cannabis in Michigan began in earnest, opportunity now beckons in Detroit, especially for qualified residents. If you fall within one of the qualifying categories for the Legacy program and would like to stake your claim in Detroit’s green rush, you need to get started on your application immediately. The priority round of applications is launching in mid-January, so while the city may be on your side, time isn’t.

The licensing process will be broken up into three phases, each of which will last a period of six weeks. Phase I is the aforementioned priority round, reserved for qualified Legacy applicants. That will be followed by a second round reserved for current medical license holders within the city. The final round, which will only occur provided that the 50% ratio is maintained, will be for anyone who remains. That caveat could possibly mean a second round for Legacy applicants, but don’t bank on it. Get started now.

This is an ongoing development that we’ll be monitoring closely. As the details continue to trickle out, we’ll be here, utilizing our unique understanding of the industry to provide you with the invaluable insight you need to navigate this yet unpredictable and ever-evolving marketplace.

Check back regularly or contact us directly to stay both informed and prepared for the exciting new developments in the Motor City’s noble venture to create a cannabis marketplace that works for everyone.

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