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Sacramento’s first Black woman-owned cannabis storefront dispensary opens in midtown

By: Orko Manna

The CORE program is meant to remove barriers of entry into the cannabis industry for people in communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs.

Sacramento’s first Black woman-owned storefront cannabis dispensary just opened, due in large part to the city’s Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program.

Crystal Nugs is the fourth storefront dispensary to open as a member of the CORE program. CEO Maisha Bahati said Crystal Nugs, which started as a delivery service, would have never been able to expand to a physical store in midtown without the city’s help.

I wouldn’t have this opportunity if the CORE program did not exist,” Bahati said. “I’ve received loans and grants close to $200,000. I received waivers on our business operating permit. I’ve received technical assistance and just support.”

The CORE program is meant to remove barriers of entry into the cannabis industry for people in communities disproportionately impacted by the War on Drugs. This includes Black and brown communities who were disparately arrested for cannabis-related offenses or lived in neighborhoods that were over-policed for drugs.

“It’s really difficult to get into the cannabis industry,” Bahati said. “The costs to get in are huge, and so you need assistance and that’s what the CORE program essentially does. It provides you with the assistance that will help you further your career in cannabis.”

The CORE program was created in 2018. In 2020, the Sacramento City Council approved 10 new storefront dispensary permits, increasing the number of storefront permits allowed in the city from 30 to 40. Crystal Nugs is the fourth business out of the 10 that received permits to open a storefront.

Davina Smith, the program manager for the City of Sacramento’s Office of Cannabis Management, said the CORE program helps with everything from education to advertising, to networking opportunities – and, of course, funding.

“It’s sort of an organic, living program,” Smith said. “It’s pretty expensive and time-consuming to break into and actually operate a regulated cannabis business, and so, the idea is to break down those barriers, try to reduce costs.”

Smith said the six other businesses are on track to open storefront dispensaries, but they must open by April 1, 2024.

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Cannabis entrepreneurs plan manufacturing, distribution, incubator space in North Sac

After becoming among the first Black women in the Sacramento region to run their own cannabis businesses, Maisha Bahati and Miko Banks are looking to extend opportunities to others looking to get into the local industry.

Bahati, the CEO of cannabis delivery business Crystal Nugs, and Banks, owner of cultivation business Resziin Farms, are combining their efforts to start a new incubator space.

The two are collaborating on a new 8,000-square-foot facility in North Sacramento, which would include an incubator for cannabis startups, a cultivation facility and a new manufacturing and distribution facility called Urban City Flowers. Bahati said they’ve secured a 10-year lease for the space. She declined to disclose the address, citing security concerns.

“It would be the first Black-, woman- and equity-owned manufacturing and distribution facility in Sacramento,” Bahati said.

Crystal Nugs will be a partner in the delivery side of the facility, Bahati said, and Resziin Farms will expand its cultivation operations at the site.

In the years immediately following recreational cannabis legalization in California in 2016, Sacramento’s cannabis industry initially became crowded with well-capitalized groups buying up real estate for cultivation, while some local dispensary chains consolidated and grew rapidly. Amid the competition, Banks and Bahati are looking to help more minority-owned businesses find a foothold.

“In this industry you have to have this vertically integrated system,” Bahati said. “The competition is big, and that’s what we’re doing to be more competitive and more self-sustaining in this industry.”

The city of Sacramento has launched efforts to help residents from communities impacted by the war on drugs enter into the relatively young legal cannabis industry, but prospective business owners still face challenges. Both Bahati and Banks graduated from the city’s cannabis equity program, but observed that business owners face barriers when it comes to finding an affordable space to launch their business.

Providing space is just one way to help young businesses get started, Banks said. She said the new facility will have room for up to 12 startups, spanning manufacturing, delivery, cultivation or distribution.

“I’m just offering the infrastructure so people can come in and utilize the space,” Banks said. “That’s how you create generational wealth.”

The two women are funding the project from their current cannabis operations and other businesses. Bahati also owns a fashion line, and Banks has operated a local towing business for the last five years. The two are also seeking interest-free loans that are offered through the city’s equity program, Bahati said.

Banks estimated that the Resziin Farms project will cost $1.8 million in total and could open within a year and a half. Bahati estimated that Urban City Flowers will cost $500,000 to start up and will be ready to launch by September or October.