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Inequities in the business of cannabis

Updated: Jan 19, 2022

Last night, the Sacramento City Council voted unanimously to approve 10 new storefront cannabis dispensaries to open after many meetings and one too many months of delay in addressing its longstanding equity issues and discriminatory practices. 

It has been three years since the city's Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity program began. According to the Sacramento Bee, "the CORE program had about 159 graduates as of late August, and some have opened cannabis businesses, but the most desirable storefront dispensary permits have been unavailable."

Currently the cap is thirty, but with the addition of ten new permits the total increases to forty. Majority of the thirty permits are owned by white men, which the city initially said they were going to prevent.

At the February 26, 2019 Law and Legislation committee meeting Councilmember Eric Guerra stated he was opposed to increasing the 30 cap. Also, at the time the City restricted where these dispensaries could be located and limited it to District 6 and 2. 

Previously, the Council discussed the idea of a lottery but made the decision of having the applicants instead submit “requests for qualifications,” with staff selecting the winners.

Policies such as restrictions on the location of dispensaries to spending months of indecisive chatter about application submissions are crystal clear examples of racist policies in action that were also approved by City Council members. 

Thus, last night was a call to action of our City Council to do the following: 

1) STOP LYING and saying you can't make sure that the application process FULLY BENEFITS communities hurt by racialized enforcement of marijuana laws. You can do MORE than open up the process exclusively to Drug War victims. You MUST MAKE SURE that no applicant is required to have ANY upfront capital or investor commitments. Do not create more victims of vulture and sharecropper investing!!! We want the applicants to have the upper hand when it's time for them to negotiate with private investors. We want applicants to have a chance to find investors in their own community. No dispensary in the city is Black owned. 

2) After Prop 16 passes, prioritize Black applicants!!

3) Demand a POLICY that allows applicants to voluntarily provide information on the race, ethnicity and gender of dispensary shareholders.

4) Demand a CITY DECISION that does not leave the new dispensaries behind in the market because you have NOT punished existing dispensaries who broke the law, and now have a monopoly, which creates inequities allowing them to leverage their purchasing power, reducing their costs to do business, while we continue to be harmed and locked out of the economy.  It's time for the City to stop lying and create a policy that truly is equitable--which means doing bold things like subsidizing start up costs. You can go through a business training course, but at the end of the day, if you ain't got the money, you still assed out!


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