The Sacramento City Council is expected to vote Tuesday to allow 10 new storefront marijuana dispensaries in the city in an effort to address longstanding equity issues in that industry.
Of the city’s current 30 dispensaries, none are owned by Black men or women – a population disproportionately arrested during the War on Drugs, according to Malaki Amen, executive director of the California Urban Partnership.
To address that issue, the council has been discussing for years whether to allow more pot shops to open.
The council previously discussed holding a lottery to choose the 10 new shop owners, but the council directed staff to instead select them based on criteria.
The proposed criteria include evaluating whether applicants will be able to successfully submit a complete application for a dispensary permit, be able to successfully operate a dispensary, and utilize criteria “reasonably necessary to protect the public health, safety, and welfare,” the staff report said.
It’s unclear from the report whether applicants would have to prove they have capital or investors to start the business.
Amen raised issues about whether that criteria will allow the people most impacted by the War on Drugs to open dispensaries – the goal of allowing new shops to open in the first place.
“We’d like the opportunity to participate in a conversation about what those methods should be and the criteria should be,” Amen told the council’s Law and Legislation Committee last month.
Councilman Jay Schenirer said there are limitations on how the city language can be written, for legal reasons.
“I think we all have the same goals on this program around equity,” Schenirer said.
The people interested in opening shops had a say in the criteria language, cannabis manager Davina Smith said.
The Law and Legislation Committee, which contains four council members, unanimously voted to recommend the item to the full nine-member council, a sign it will likely pass.
To be considered, applicants must be participants or former participants in the city’s Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program. That program is only open to residents who meet certain requirements, such as earning a low income, living in certain zip codes most impacted by the War on Drugs, or having a prior arrest for a cannabis-related charge. The program had about 159 graduates as of late August.
While permits for manufacturing, cultivation, delivery and distribution have been available, no permits for storefront dispensaries, the most desirable, have ever been available to new applicants. When recreational marijuana became legal California, the city allowed the shops already selling medical marijuana to have the only storefront permits.
Last year, The Sacramento Bee reported that one group of business partners had been able to gain ownership of a third of the city’s storefront dispensaries, despite a city code intended to prevent that. The code has since been strengthened.