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Improving equity in cannabis industry

Posted at 7:04 PM, Feb 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-09 19:04:36-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The so-called "war on drugs" didn't work.

Now Grand Rapids Director of Equity and Engagement Stacy Stout and her team is working to undo the damage done.

“It's healing, right? It's righting some of the wrongs that have been done, and continue to be done,” says Stacy. “With the city sponsoring nonprofit to work on making sure the cannabis industry is fair to anyone who wants to work in it locally — or have been victimized by old, targeted policies.”

“Inequitable drug policy began in the 1870s with the nation’s anti-opiate law targeting Chinese immigrants," Stacy adds.

It will officially begin in the next 18 months.

“This nonprofit is focused on community, the public good,” says Stacy. “It will benefit industry, cannabis and other industry. Whether it's expungement assistance, so folks have more access to jobs, business incubation, industry can diversify their supplier change. It can be any of the harm, for example, if you have drug convictions, you can't apply for financial aid.”

But it's a component of the industry the city says should be there, funded, to start, by the local cannabis industry.

“A lot of cannabis industry, they made some equity commitments when they first started. This is one of them," says Stacy.

Right now there is no name, just a year's worth of paperwork to get through before an official nonprofit organization will be there for the city to, in turn, contract out with.

“This work is probably one of the most important things I've ever contributed to in my career,” says Stacy. “It's both healing and structural change.”

It’s an attempt to help those unfairly targeted by antiquated drug laws.

“As we decriminalize and legalize some substances, how do we do this in a humane way?” Stacy asks. “To heal some of that harm, and to face our history so we can learn from it?”

It’s also an attempt to undo history of harm.

“This is just one piece of the puzzle," says Stacy.

The next steps include getting that 501-3-c license, as well as creating a board to decide the direction the nonprofit will go in. The most important thing, Stacy says, is an intentional blueprint to help those harmed by criminal charges for a now-decriminalized substance.

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