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The Devil is in the Details 5/11/2021: More Recreational Cannabis businesses approved by Grand Rapids, even though they are not local and not doing a damn thing to undo the harm of the War on Drugs

May 10, 2021

This is our latest installment of The Devil is in the Details, which takes a critical look at Grand Rapids politics and policies, based primarily on the public record, such as committee agendas and minutes. In this installment we look at recent recreational cannabis operations likely to be approved by the Grand Rapids Planning Commission during their May 13 meeting. 

As we have noted in several previous postings, the majority of cannabis businesses in Grand Rapids continue to be owned by companies that are not local, companies that have multiple locations now in the city and companies that are doing little or nothing to address the long-standing harm that has been done during the War on Drugs, particularly against the Black community.

There are three new recreational cannabis operations up for approval by the City Planning Commission, one by Green Skies – Healing Tree LLC (which is known as 3Fifteen) and two by Oak Flint LLC.

Green Skies – Healing Tree LLC, which has 17 dispensary applications submitted, is owned by Leafly and has dispensaries all over Michigan, as well as other states in the US. Leafly is a subsidiary of a much larger company, Privateer Holdings, which owns numerous other businesses within its portfolio.

Oak Flint LLC, which has 3 dispensary applications submitted, also has applications submitted in Lansing. Oak Flint LLC was founded by John McCloed, who used to be a Real Estate Agent and was a special Operations in the Detroit Police Department for 11 years. 

Both Green Skies – Healing Tree LLC and Oak Flint LLC are not local, they both already operate cannabis operations in Grand Rapids, and we could find no evidence that either of these business are investing in the work of undoing the harm created by the War on Drugs. In fact, just the opposite is happening.

For example, when people were selling cannabis on the street, before states been legalizing the drug, a disproportionately high number of African Americans were being arrested and sentenced for selling cannabis. Now, white entrepreneurs are doing the exact same thing and making millions, with no legal consequences.

Another reality is that it is very difficult for Black people wanting to get into the Cannabis business, as was reflected in a recent article entitled, Black-Owned Pot Businesses Remain Rare Despite Diversity Efforts. One Black aspiring cannabis business owner states, “A lot of times we’re people who grew up basically on the streets. A lot of us don’t have college educations. We’re not contract-savvy, we don’t have a team of lawyers.” 

In an excellent article entitled, The legal cannabis industry must reckon with systemic racism, the writer states:

The legal and medical cannabis industry has long been complicit in the systemic oppression of Black people. As Black Lives Matter protests continue around the country, activists, doctors, and entrepreneurs are calling for those in cannabis to dismantle the systemic racism the industry is built on.

In the wake of the protests against police brutality following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, all facets of American culture are forced to rethink its approach to race. The cannabis industry, which has a projected economic impact of $77 billion by 2020, is steadily growing. But the effects of the generations-long war on drugs are still prevalent in marginalized communities, particularly Black ones.

The assessments presented in these articles is a reflection of what is happening in Grand Rapids. When the cannabis businesses that are opening are not local, when they own multiple locations in the city, and when they do virtually nothing to create racial equity or undo the harm of the War on Drugs, then they perpetuate the same kind of long-standing structural racism that has plagued Grand Rapids since the city was founded. 

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