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Sacramento May Raise Limit on Cannabis Dispensaries to Promote Racial Equity

Currently, no legal dispensaries in Sacramento are owned by people of color. But that may change in the near future.

Sacramento May Raise Limit on Cannabis Dispensaries to Promote Racial Equity
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The Sacramento City Council is considering lifting the cap on cannabis dispensaries allowed in the city in an effort to promote racial equity in the city’s marijuana industry. Sacramento has had 30 cannabis dispensaries doing business in the city since 2014.

Even when the sale of recreational cannabis became legal at the beginning of this year, Sacramento did not allow more marijuana dispensaries to open in the city. Instead, most of the 30 licensed medical marijuana retailers began selling recreational cannabis as well.

Racial Equity in the Cannabis Industry

Malaki Seku Amen, the CEO of the California Urban Partnership, told the Sacramento Bee that none of the city’s cannabis dispensaries’ owners are black. A spokeswoman for Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg said that the city does not track the race of the city’s cannabis dispensary owners.

In August, the city council approved a program designed to support ownership in the legal cannabis industry by people in communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs. The Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program reduces or eliminate costly licensing fees and helps potential business owners navigate the licensing and regulatory process. Councilman Jay Schenirer said then that he believed that other jurisdictions could eventually follow Sacramento’s example.

“This is just the right thing to do,” said Schenirer. “It’s going to take some work, we’re going to learn as we go, but I hope we can be both the statewide and national model.”

Seku-Amen would help address the racial disparity long prevalent in the enforcement of cannabis prohibition.

“This CORE program is going to help those who were disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs,” said Seku-Amen. ”It will help us who suffered generational poverty to benefit from the region’s $4 billion industry in cannabis.”

Councilman Suggests Lifting Cap

But even with the  CORE program, a minority-owned dispensary won’t be possible unless the city lifts the cap. At a meeting of the council on Tuesday, Councilman Larry Carr suggested lifting the cap.

“The outcome I’m looking for is expanding the pool of people who own dispensaries and make sure our CORE participants have the opportunity to own a dispensary,” Carr said.

Councilmen Steve Hansen said that he would like to see any new dispensaries outside of the industrial areas where most of the current ones are located.

“I noticed there are districts that have zero and so how do we make sure that licenses are in places that currently have none?” Hansen said.

Regulations enacted in 2010 prohibited dispensaries from being located near schools, churches, and tobacco shops, but those restrictions have since been relaxed. Consequently, three dispensaries already licensed by the city have submitted applications to move their businesses to the downtown and midtown areas, according to Joe Devlin, the chief of cannabis policy for Sacramento.

“We’re beginning to see the re-shifting of those dispensaries,” Devlin said.

If the city council authorizes an increase in the number of dispensaries, it could be 2020 before any new cannabis retailers open.

“If they decide to lift the cap, there’s a lot of work to be done,” Devlin said.

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