Minority-owned businesses deserve a shot at pot jackpot

Customers line up to purchase cannabis at A Therapeutic Alternative as legal marijuana sales begin in Sacramento on Jan. 1.
Customers line up to purchase cannabis at A Therapeutic Alternative as legal marijuana sales begin in Sacramento on Jan. 1.

Not since the repeal of Prohibition in 1933 has there been a business opportunity like the legalization of marijuana. To take advantage, the city of Sacramento is shaping a program to help disadvantaged communities participate in meaningful ways.


While nearby local governments are putting up barriers to the new marketplace, Sacramento is opening doors. City council members should be recognized for their political courage in approving the Cannabis Opportunity, Reinvestment and Equity program.

There are also obvious benefits for city government since recreational sales will generate vitally needed new taxes and fees. General fund revenues in 2016 from 30 medical marijuana dispensaries totaled more than $4.8 million.

The city’s social equity plan is an audacious experiment – as revolutionary as voters’ decision in 2016 to approve recreational marijuana use in California. Since the entire nation will be watching the experiment, the City Council and staff need to ensure that small minority-owned businesses wanting to participate have a level playing field. The city’s next step is to develop the request for proposals for outside groups to establish small-business support centers and mentoring programs and to provide technical assistance.

Assisting minority businesses will also help persuade those skirting the law to come in from the cold. Fairly treating minority communities will keep businesses legitimate, keep the public safe and keep tax dollars flowing into city coffers.

When Bill Lockyer, California’s former attorney general, recently announced he was co-founding a cannabis distribution business in Los Angeles, he framed the legalization of marijuana in a way that’s practical to the business community: “I think legalizing will help stabilize and help legitimize this industry and result in better consumer protection and other public benefits.”

That is the reasoning behind the outreach programs that the Sacramento and California Asian-Pacific chambers of commerce have been conducting over the last year. We have held four roundtables and educational workshops, attracting several hundred attendees interested in learning more about this emerging industry and how to operate successful – and legal – enterprises. They are eager for more help and welcome the spirit behind the city’s social equity plan since many, themselves, were subjected to economic discrimination in the last century.

Pat Fong Kushida is president & CEO of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce. She can be contacted at