City Beat

Sacramento to help launch minority pot businesses in struggling neighborhoods

The Sacramento City Council took a big step Thursday toward giving minority business owners and residents of disadvantaged neighborhoods better access to the billion-dollar cannabis industry.

The Council unanimously approved the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program after months of fine-tuning.

Council members said the program would allow those impacted most by the “War on Drugs” to open a cannabis business without paying thousands of dollars in permit fees. It also will provide support to entrepreneurs to help them navigate the permitting process.

“This is just the right thing to do,” said Councilman Jay 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.”

Those eligible for the program include people arrested for nonviolent marijuana crimes between 1980 and 2011, those with an immediate family member who was arrested and residents of ZIP codes where a disproportionate amount of arrests occurred.

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

Seku-Amen said a majority of those arrested during the War on Drugs were African Americans and that a majority of those arrests were for nonviolent crimes.

“This has caused economic destruction and trauma in our community,” he said.

Lynette Davies, a medical marijuana dispensary operator, said the permit fee waiver will help, but that more should be done to help people from disadvantaged neighborhoods get into an expensive cannabis business. She said the start-up costs for a new cannabis business can reach $100,000.

“In the city of Sacramento, they need some kind of fund to help them get started with the cost of business,” Davies said. “I think it is imperative that if you do part of it, you do it right the whole way.”

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