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Sacramento to lift cap on number of cannabis dispensaries allowed in the city

The Sacramento city council will consider lifting the cap on the number of cannabis dispensaries allowed to operate in California’s capital city.

Since 2014, Sacramento licensed approximately 30 dispensaries to operate within city limits — a number that has not changed in spite of the legalization of recreational cannabis. When California voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the majority of Sacramento’s dispensaries began selling recreational cannabis as well as medical marijuana, and no new dispensaries were allowed to open.

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Additionally, the war on drugs has barred many of Sacramento’s citizens from entering the $4 billion legal cannabis industry. By lifting the cap on the number of cannabis dispensaries, and by participating in a program which addresses racial inequity in the marijuana industry, Sacramento’s city council is attempting to correct the harm previously inflicted on the black and Latinx communities.

The opportunity for racial equity in the cannabis industry

Malaki Seku Amen of the California Urban Partnership pointed out the racial disparity amongst dispensary owners, stating that none of these owners in Sacramento are black. According to the Sacramento Bee, a spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said that the city doesn’t track the race of dispensary owners.

To help provide greater equity and access to the cannabis industry, Sacramento’s city council adopted a program called the Dispensaries in the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity program, or CORE for short.

Developed in collaboration with the California Urban Partnership, Youth Forward, and Public Health Advocates and adopted by the city council in August, the CORE program would help both people of color and those with non-violent drug offenses have greater entry opportunities into the cannabis industry.

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The CORE program includes a city investment of $1 million for technical assistance to help those eligible to participate through the difficult cannabis-industry licensing process.

CORE participants would receive access to a myriad of services, including business application processing at no cost, something that typically runs anywhere from $8,000 to $40,000. They would also receive mentoring opportunities, fully equipped business operating spaces for reduced charges up to four years, and pathways to obtain a 33 percent ownership share in major marijuana companies.

CORE’s priority in program enrollment requires that 30 percent of the workforce be people who have been negatively impacted by the war on drugs. It will include those people arrested for non-violent marijuana crimes between 1980 and 2011, and possibly those with an immediate family member who was arrested.

The city council and the cap

The CORE program waives permit fees on dispensaries. As the city council is considering lifting the cap on dispensaries, the program will provide further opportunities for new cannabis business entrepreneurs to enter the legalized pot playing field.

“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,” Councilman Larry Carr told the Sacramento Bee.

The city council unanimously approved the CORE program, knowing that its implementation would take work.

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“This is just the right thing to do,” Councilman Jay Schenirer told the Sacramento Bee. “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.”

During this week’s city council meeting, Councilmen Carr, Allen Warren, and Rick Jennings II all expressed interest in having CORE participants have the ability to own dispensaries, causing Carr to request a council discussion on lifting the cap.

If the city council does decide to vote to increase the cap, Sacramento probably won’t see any new dispensaries until 2020. One thing is for certain if the cap is lifted, CORE participants and city officials alike will have a lot of cannabis-related votes to work out.

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