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Locally-owned marijuana dispensary using social equity money to fund public artwork

They'll now design different pieces on multiple locations along the West Wealthy Street corridor.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Before weed was legal in Michigan, Casey Kornoelje was convicted for possession and cultivation of cannabis.

"And ironically, here we are possessing and cultivating cannabis some 20 years later," says Kornoelje, owner of Pharmhouse Wellness.

That conviction made his shop eligible for social equity benefits. The program aims to make amends to people previously convicted of marijuana-related crimes.

"For us, we receive discounts on our annual regulatory fees paid to the city and the state," explains Kornoelje.

So to help improve the community, Kornoelje decided to put that extra money towards an art project, covering empty spaces Wealthy Street with eye-catching artwork.

"These are spaces that you drive by every day that are, I don't want to say untouched, but unimproved," says Kornoelje. "And we recognize and acknowledge that we'd like to see more vibrancy and color in the neighborhood."

Kornoelje narrowed down numerous applications from local artists to seven in total. They'll now design different pieces on multiple locations along the West Wealthy Street corridor, including a huge empty wall on Pharmhouse's cultivation center.

"The goal for me opening this business in this neighborhood is to leave this area better than it was when I got here," says Kornoelje.

It's a goal he has had since the first day he was awarded the social equity incentives. Those extra dollars were always going back to his community.

"I don't know, I guess I could be going on a trip to Jamaica or maybe buying a new car. I actually need a new car," laughs Kornoelje. "But it felt, and does feel, like the right thing to do."

The city will review the proposed artwork later this month. Kornoelje hopes to have it completed by the end of the summer.

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