SACRAMENTO – With issues still abound and inclusion slowly developing that would allow more local Black Americans in the industry, the City of Sacramento was awarded $1.8 million in state funding to increase equity in its local cannabis industry.
The funding — part of the Cannabis Equity Grants Program for Local Jurisdictions — comes from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development, in partnership with the Bureau of Cannabis Control.
The grant program “seeks to advance economic justice for populations and communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition by providing funding to local jurisdictions that are committed to promoting equity in the legal cannabis marketplace and eliminating barriers to entering the regulated cannabis industry,” the Governor’s Office said in a written statement.
Ten cities were granted equity funding. The grant awards build upon the $40 million in cannabis equity funding awarded by the state, the Governor’s Office said.
Sacramento’s portion of the $15 million program follows Oakland ($2.45 million), San Francisco ($2.06 million) and Los Angeles ($2.03 million).
“Cannabis prohibition and criminalization has had devastating impacts on generations of Californians,” said Nicole Elliott, senior adviser on cannabis to Gov. Newsom. “As we work to safely reopen our economy, leading with equity across all sectors will ensure a just recovery and further our commitment to create a truly diverse legal industry. These efforts stand as a testament to our values as a state, and I applaud the work being done by these jurisdictions as they thoughtfully embrace this challenge.”
The grant program seeks to advance economic justice for populations and communities disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition by providing funding to local jurisdictions that are committed to promoting equity in the legal cannabis marketplace and eliminating barriers to entering the regulated cannabis industry.
At least $11.5 million of the funding, in the form of grants or low- or no-interest loans, will be directly allocated to cannabis equity applicants and licensees specifically identified by local jurisdictions as being linked to populations or communities that were negatively or disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and criminalization.
Sacramento established its Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) Program in 2018. The city is one of 12 municipalities across California to receive local jurisdiction equity funding from the state this year. But the city still struggles to include Black proprietors in the business despite programs within CORE that supposedly are designed to address inclusion.
On Nov. 28, 2017, the city council authorized staff to create a program to address the negative impacts of disproportionate enforcement of cannabis-related regulation in Sacramento before the adoption of Proposition 64 and directed staff to return to the council with a resolution to establish the program.
Over the years, Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg has said that there should be a direct “decrease in inequities” and “increase the diversity.” The CORE Program aims to reduce barriers to entry into the cannabis market by persons who were impacted by the disproportionate prosecution of cannabis-related crimes.
In January, Sacramento created 10 storefront cannabis dispensary permits available to CORE participants, adding to the 30 permits that currently exist. Over 100 requests for the 10 permits are currently under review.
Potential awardees could learn their fates by April, said Malaki Seku-Amen of the California Urban Partnership (CUP). Seku-Amen also said that of the current 30 permits not one is in the hands of a Black business.
Seku-Amen, who was instrumental in seeing that the city create CORE, would prefer that all 10 permits go to African American applicants. He said no other group than African Americans have “suffered more from arrests, convictions, and incarceration behind marijuana than the Black community.”
“By my account, there were 105 people who applied for those 10 licenses,” Seku-Amen said. “So, we’re waiting for the application review process to end. But the only reason why the city opened up 10 more slots is because (it) was pressured to open up 10 spots. Yes, absolutely, they should be granted to Black applicants. We should get 30 total licenses for the Black community.”
Seku-Amen said he will wait to comment on the process’ fairness after it’s announced who gets the dispensary permits. He questions the application process because it lacked input from the community.
A survey was distributed to obtain information about applicants. But Seku-Amen said it was a lost opportunity for collaboration to discuss reinvestment and equity in the community.
“The city’s application should have been about all of those things that are in the city’s ordinance, the resolution about the damage that was done to Black people,” Seku-Amen said. “That should have been a part of the application process. That’s policy. You’re fixing a problem and this application should be the implementation of policy.”