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A previous marijuana-related conviction could help entrepreneurs hoping to open a recreational marijuana business in Michigan.

Michigan officials are trying to attract a wider variety of businesses to the booming recreational marijuana industry, not just those with deep pockets.

The Marijuana Regulatory Agency, a subdivision of the state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Administration that regulates marijuana business, on Tuesday announced expansion of a program beginning June 1 to draw more residents from poorer communities and those with prior marijuana convictions.

If you have a marijuana-related felony conviction -- so long as it wasn’t for distribution to a minor -- the state is offering a 40% discount on the $6,000 application fee and licensing fees that initially cost $25,000 for a retail license and up to $40,000 for processing businesses or growers of up to 2,000 plants, based on proposed rules that have yet to be finalized. Annual renewal fees are similar, but fluctuate according on the size of the business.

Anyone with a marijuana-related misdemeanor conviction receives a 25% discount, as well as anyone who’s lived in a designated social equity community for five of the last 10 years. Another 10% exemption applies to applicants who’ve registered as a medical marijuana caregiver for at least two years between 2008 and 2017.

So far, the program hasn’t had a lot of full participants.

Marijuana Regulatory Agency Andrew Brisbo said only two companies, an event organizer and a retailer, have obtained recreational marijuana licenses under through the Social Equity Program. The program was created “to encourage participation in the marijuana industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.”

“We do have a lot of individuals who are interested in the program” Brisbo said.

He said 172 applicants have been approved as qualified for the program.

Many would-be benefactors, such as residents in major cities like Detroit, Saginaw and Pontiac, were previously out of luck, since their communities, along with nearly 1,400 other cities, townships and villages in the state, don’t allow recreational marijuana businesses.

“It’s clear that Detroit’s medical marijuana industry is overwhelmingly owned and operated by individuals who don’t live in the city and take their dollars back to their communities,” Detroit City Councilman James Tate said when he urged the city not to pass a recreational marijuana ordinance in January. "It’s critical that we take the necessary time now to ensure that Detroit’s impending recreational marijuana industry will properly reflect the demographic of the city’s it’s located in.

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