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Grand Rapids approves non-profit to boost social equity outcomes in neighborhoods hit by "war on drugs"

The city says the next step is to form a leadership board of diverse members to bring different perspectives to the organization.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — This week, the Grand Rapids City Commission approved the creation of a new non-profit. It is being created to push for social equity in areas of the city most impacted by the over enforcement of cannabis before it became legal.

"Grand Rapids, as with cities across the state in the country continue to face inequities," says Stacy Stout, director of the Office of Equity and Engagement. "Both from historic policies, but also current policies that impact people differently."

Expungement assistance, meant to help clean the records of those with cannabis related crimes, is part of the program, along with several other resources.

"Business incubation and entrepreneurial help to help diverse businesses get into the cannabis industry, along with other industries as well," says Stout.

Denavvia Mojet, executive director of the Black and Brown Cannabis Guild, is excited for the future.

"I think the city of Grand Rapids has been really intentional about making sure that there was a social equity component to our recreational market," says Mojet.

Her organization already does a lot of the same work in the city, having organized expungement fairs and provided similar resources.

"We've laid a lot of the foundation for much of what that non profit should do," says Mojet.

She says it's encouraging to see government leaders take action in the drive to advance social equity.

"To focus specifically on, you know, social equity, to focus specifically on justice. It is, you know, at its core, a charitable function," describes Mojet. "And I do believe that a non profit is the vehicle, you know, that you can use to navigate that specific focus."

And she hopes the city will work with them to reach their shared goals.

"There's huge opportunities not to operate within silos, but to really contribute to this, this more robust network of resources around cannabis justice, that we've seen really growing over the past couple years," says Mojet.

The city says the next step is to form a leadership board of diverse members to bring different perspectives to the organization. It hopes to have the non-profit up and running within the next year.

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