By Antonio R. Harvey | Observer Staff Writer

NORTH SACRAMENTO – No sooner than the City of Sacramento issues 10 permits for cannabis dispensaries and the state hands out funding to increase equity in the marijuana industry, the District 2 councilmember wants a moratorium to halt additional outlets from operating in his area.

Sean Loloee, who won the seat in November, says North Sacramento has too many dispensaries. The postponement would directly affect members of the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program who have already identified District 2 as an area to start a business.

“The moratorium will directly hurt all applicants in the CORE program that the city received state money for,” said Kevin Hooks, a member of the city’s program that was created to address the negative impacts of disproportionate enforcement of cannabis-related regulations in Sacramento.

“CORE members who are hoping, or in process, to lease space in District 2 for any and all cannabis businesses will be immediately frozen,” Hooks said recently during an in-person news conference in front of Sacramento City Hall.

The Sacramento City Council was scheduled to discuss the pending moratorium in District 2 at the last meeting on April 6. But Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg and members of the council decided to move the issue off the agenda and revisit it again on April 20.

Loloee and others in his corner said it would be appropriate and “fair to take a pause” while a study and audit determine if the “outcome is what the city and District 2 needs,” he said. 

In January 2021, Loloee requested that his staff draft an ordinance to establish a moratorium on all cannabis uses within Council District 2. In February, the Planning and Design Commission passed a motion to initiate a study regarding cannabis uses in North Sacramento to review concerns about overconcentration.

The purpose of the ordinance is to “protect the public health, safety, and welfare by prohibiting” potential new cannabis dispensary or cannabis production use or the expansion or modification of those uses while the City studies and enacts new land-use conditions. Loloee also believes more cannabis outlets would increase crime in District 2.

Cannabis dispensaries and cannabis production uses are permitted with a conditional use permit and the zoning districts allowing these land uses are primarily located within the southeast industrial area of the City and North Sacramento. Approximately 62 properties have received entitlements to establish one or more cannabis-related uses.

The members of CORE, with permits in hand, would like to be a part of the production in District 2. Especially since additional funding is now available that could support their efforts. The city was recently awarded almost $2 million in state funding to increase equity in its local cannabis industry. 

The funding comes from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development (GOBED), in partnership with the Bureau of Cannabis Control. It is in the form of grants or low- or no-interest loans and will be directly supplied to applicants and licensees identified by local jurisdictions linked to populations or communities that were unfavorably impacted by cannabis prohibition and criminalization.

The funding from GOBED arrived at a time when the top 10 scoring applicants for new storefront cannabis dispensary permits were announced April 2. Applicants, elected through the CORE program, can now apply for new storefront cannabis dispensary permits. 

The moratorium Loloee wants to initiate requires a four-fifths vote and initially would be effective for 45-days. The moratorium could be extended by City Council but not to exceed a maximum cumulative period of two years.

Malaki Seku-Amen of the California Urban Partnership (CUP) is one of the 10 applicants awarded an opportunity to apply for a permit. A member of CORE  along with Hooks, Seku-Amen said the moratorium is just another battle for Black people in the war to be a part of the $35 billion cannabis industry in California.

“They just keep moving the goal post,” he told the OBSERVER. “All we’ve done is continued to work with the city and the CORE program. Our community has been the one suffering from the war on drugs and we’ve worked the hardest to try to open a business. It’s still preventing Black and Brown people from competing at every turn. The playing field is not leveled.”