Michigan City OKs Social Equity Nonprofit

The organization will be aimed at communities impacted by past cannabis enforcement practices.

Grand Rapids, Mich.
Grand Rapids, Mich.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Grand Rapids City Commission has given its approval to create a nonprofit organization to boost social equity outcomes in communities most historically impacted by over-enforcement of cannabis prior to its legalization.

The independent body would help advance social equity city-wide by supporting efforts such as business incubation, entrepreneur training, job and wealth creation strategies, economic incentives, capital, expungement assistance and other efforts designed to increase opportunities for traditionally under-resourced communities.

This was an interdepartmental effort that included city representatives from the Department of Law, Office of Equity and Engagement, Planning Department, and Executive Office. The proposed nonprofit first appeared as part of the city’s Cannabis Social Equity Policy, adopted July 7, 2020 by the City Commission. Formation of the nonprofit was a key part of the policy recommendation supporting the improvement of social equity outcomes in the city as a whole and within Grand Rapids’ new cannabis industry.

Once established, the nonprofit’s bylaws are expected to mirror the relevant goals and objectives of the city’s strategic plan, and the cannabis social equity plan. It is expected that the initial board will have approximately eleven directors chosen through the city’s appointment process. The board will consist of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and expertise. The intention is to have individuals on the board with diverse viewpoints, inspiring meaningful conversations about the best ways to effectuate positive outcomes in the communities most affected by the war on drugs.

“Forming this nonprofit will help us achieve our goals in the areas in which the city does not have direct regulatory control,” Mayor Rosalynn Bliss said. “It gives us flexibility in the execution and advancement of certain types of initiatives related to advancing equity in the cannabis industry and assisting members of our community that currently do not have access to enter this emerging field.”

Assistant City Attorney Amber Beebe advised the commission that forming a nonprofit also “shifts many programming and administrative responsibilities away from local government, thus avoiding the need to create a new department or new positions that may not be supported by the city budget. It also has fewer restrictions on the ability to raise revenue and spending and therefore, can provide greater access to potential grants and other funds.”

Beebe also pointed out that, while the nonprofit should be able to create opportunities for more individuals to enter the cannabis industry, the cannabis industry will not be the only industry to benefit from having the nonprofit. If carried out correctly, many industries in the city can benefit from the nonprofit’s future programming.

A series of next steps must be taken to form the nonprofit. Those steps include selecting a name for the organization, drafting articles of incorporation and recommended bylaws, applying for recognition as a 501(c)(3) with the IRS, appointing directors, electing officers and adopting bylaws. Forming the nonprofit by filing the articles of incorporation should begin within the next 30-45 days. The city will then begin accepting applications for the first set of directors in conjunction with the steps outlined above. The city hopes to have the nonprofit up and running within the next eighteen months, based on an estimation of state and federal approval timelines.

Stacy Stout, the city’s director of equity & engagement, outlined the process at the City Commission’s Committee of the Whole meeting. To download her PowerPoint “Formation of a Nonprofit for Social Equity,” click here. To watch her presentation, click here.

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