Getting to the CORE of Sacramento’s Equity Program

The legalization of marijuana has created the largest business opportunity in America since 1933. The city of Sacramento, California intends to make the best of this opportunity by creating a program that will help minority communities participate in this up and coming industry.

The Sacramento City Council approved the Cannabis Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Equity Program (CORE) in November of 2017.  According to Fox40, CORE “aims to provide mentors who have experience in the marijuana industry to women and minorities that are looking to get into that business.” It also waives some start-up fees for members of minorities and can speed up the permit and approval process for minority business. Overall the City of Sacramento hopes to create equal opportunity for all wishing to enter this field.

The city will also gain considerable benefits from this program. Recreational sales have the potential to create new taxes and fees. The revenue from just 30 medical marijuana dispensaries in 2016 was over $4.8 million.

In many ways, Sacramento’s program, as with all other equity programs, will be a test trail watched by all of America. To avoid criticism Sacramento will have to truly provide small minority-owned businesses with help that will put them on the same level as their competitors. The city must begin by developing small-business support centers, mentoring programs, and provide technical support as needed.

This program has raised the hope that minority businesses that have been going around the law will be able to come into the light and feel more comfortable and welcome in the industry. The City believes that if minority businesses are given fair opportunities, the result will be legitimate businesses, greater public safety, and more tax revenue for the city.

Bill Lockyer, a former attorney general for the State of California, and a soon to be co-founder of a cannabis distribution business stated: “I think legalizing will help stabilize and help legitimize this industry and result in better consumer protection and other public benefits.”

This opinion is shared by and has motivated the Sacramento and Asian- Pacific Chambers of Commerce to create outreach programs. These programs have been up and running for a little over a year. Through these programs, there have been four roundtables and educational workshops in the past year. All of these events have been widely popular. It was noted that several hundred participants were in attendance at the events.

Many minorities faced business discrimination in the last century over a variety of industries. The Cannabis Industry is an opportunity to right the wrongs of the past by providing truly equal opportunity.  Sacramento is not alone in its fight for equality. Equity programs have been created throughout the state of California in Oakland, Los Angles, and San Francisco. Other states that are supporting minority progression in the Cannabis sphere include Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Maryland. While many of these programs have flaws to work out, the sheer number of them shows the potential growth the Cannabis industry will have in years to come.



Race to the Top

San Francisco recently announced that they plan to reduce or end sentencings for all criminal convictions, misdemeanors, and felonies, dating back to 1975, related to cannabis. Those who have served time or currently serving time will have their cases reviewed, clearing the way for people to be released from jail and be allowed to look into housing, jobs, and other areas of life previously unavailable due to their convictions. The city is expanding upon Proposition 64, a state law that allowed amnesty for marijuana-related crimes as a condition to legalize cannabis in California.

Cities across California and other states are following suit, creating what seems to be a race to achieve true racially and economically inclusive outcomes. Oakland was the first city to launch a cannabis equity program, designed to help people lacking the capital needed to start a business, or being restricted to do so, because of past weed crime convictions. Twenty-nine cannabis businesses in Oakland will not have to pay rent and will have security costs covered for three years under the program. The city revealed the names of several people who will be receiving permits to open a cannabis dispensary the same day San Francisco made their announcement. Six of the eight permits were awarded to people that either fell under the line of individuals making less than the average Oakland median income, which is $56,300 in a one-person household, or who were convicted for weed dating back to 1996. Some of the companies have also admitted to employing half of their staff with formerly incarcerated people.

Los Angeles is another city with a cannabis social equity program. Business permits are prioritized for people that lived in cities ravaged by drug wars, have criminal records for marijuana, and who will employ half of their staff from residents. Both cities are also willing to help finance or lease spaces to applicants that don’t fall under the two programs criteria.

Sacramento also imposed a Cannabis Opportunity, Reinvestment, and Equity Program. The criterion is similar to other programs and is also looking to help business-seekers with past drug convictions have their records expunged. Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Maryland have equity programs but are having problems with the roll-outs.

One Oakland organization, Hood Incubator, is coming into the race to help formerly incarcerate blacks and Latinos prepare to work in the cannabis industry. They announced a $1 million partnership with the cannabis technology company Eaze. This is allowing Hood to include clinics and business workshops, and developing progressive policies for cannabis-friendly cities to adopt. Their first joint project will be “Cannabis Equity Strategy Manifesto” which will build upon practices from jurisdictions with an equity program, to create a model policy for future cities and states wanting to get into the cannabis market.

Though regulations for the cannabis market have been heavy, profits and revenue have still grown substantially. In the 2017 Cannabis Industry Annual Report from New Frontier Data, the market was estimated to be worth $6 billion in 2016 but is expected to grow to $24 billion by 2025, growing at a compound annual growth rate of 16%. This statistic is right now solely based on states where weed is legal, so it is expected to dramatically change.



Minorities to Receive Helping Hand in the Medical Cannabis Industry

A report released on January 17, 2018, by Maryland’s Gov. Larry Hogan’s administration has provided data on discrimination in the overall economy toward businesses owned by women and minorities.

Jon Wainwright, an economist and managing director of NERA Economic Consulting noted that last year’s study suggested dissimilarities in economy-wide state contracting within some of Maryland’s relevant markets. These disparities are even greater in the public sector. The reasoning being offered toward the differences is due to a state-operated minority business enterprise program. The program is meant to reduce discrimination in public procurement but does not yet eliminate it entirely.

The evidence would support lawmakers who are sponsoring legislation to create five medical marijuana cultivation licenses for minority-owned businesses. A previous bill failed to pass the prior year.

Maryland’s medical marijuana program began having dispensaries sell within the state. Despite the 14 companies licensed to grow marijuana, however, none are owned by black owners, though nearly one-third of the state’s population is black.

There is a strong interest in Maryland’s marijuana market, as it is expected to be highly profitable. The expectation comes from allowing marijuana to be available to those with severe conditions that other medical treatments prove ineffective. Doctors, as well as nurse practitioners, dentists, podiatrists, and nurse midwives, can recommend its use.

Wainwright stated in his report, “Absent such affirmative remedial efforts by the State; I would expect to see evidence in the relevant markets in which the medical cannabis licensees will operate that is consistent with the continued presence of business discrimination.”



Cannabis’ Leading Ladies

Women have always been a force for equal rights and influential change. As new legal fights come to the forefront, so do the inspirational women waiting right behind to lead the charge. In an article by Leafly, in honor of Women’s History Month, they chose to name the eight women who are helping to pave a brighter future for the legalization of cannabis.

The list below names just a few of the women, from all walks of life, including lawyers and entrepreneurs. Their continued dedication is sure to improve the quality of life for millions of citizens, especially those unnecessarily charged with misdemeanors and felonies for possession.

Diane Goldstein
She dedicated 21 years working as the first female lieutenant for the Redondo Beach Police Department in Southern California. The drug arrests Diane made in her time greatly helped to shape her perspective on the war on drugs, particularly cannabis, especially after an arrest made on a family member. She is an Executive Board Member for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition and regularly writes and speaks on the benefits of cannabis legalization.

Jasmine Hupp
After serving as Director of Digital Media for Women 2.0, which helps women start their own high-growth businesses, she became the founder and CEO of Women Grow. This group was created as a community for women to feel empowered in the cannabis industry. The business has a national leadership summit and local branches in more than 30 cities.

Renee Gagnon
She is the first, and only, transgender woman CEO who created a cannabis company and made it public. Thunderbird Biomedical Inc., was founded in 2013, even before receiving her license under the Marijuana for Medical Purposes Regulations from Health Canada in February 2014. The company was bought out in 2015, after which she began working with Gill Polard, a fellow female cannabis entrepreneur. They co-founded a supply chain known as International Cannabis Centres Inc.

Kate Brown
The Governor of Oregon has been extremely receptive to the positive benefits of cannabis legalization. In addition to supporting it for medical and adult-use, she signed legislation that allows the sale of edibles and that lets banks and credit unions work with cannabis companies without the fear of criminal liability.

Hilary Bricken
An attorney at Harris Bricken, PLLC since 2010, she became an advocate for cannabis legalization in Seattle. She created the firm’s Canna Law Group and is the chair. Hilary was named “Deal Maker of the Year” by Puget Sound Business Journal and “Industry Attorney of the Year” by Dope Magazine.

Julie Netherland, Shawnta Hopkins-Greene, and Melissa Mentele, are among the list that have fought for the push in passing cannabis legislature. They have created companies, run for office, and helped pass policies all in attempt to better the lives of those impacted negatively by the justice system. Their continued efforts are an inspiration to those still trying to add their voice to the cannabis battle. And with the fight far from over, there is plenty of room for more voices!


A “Green Rush” for Business

The “green rush” has started to flourish as marijuana becomes more legal with each piece of legislation. A problem still remains however; there is an abundance of rules and fees.

Several studies have projected California will reach $6 billion in marijuana sales by 2025. And though the challenges of starting a business aren’t ideal, there are those looking for other avenues to pursue their greener interests.

Mark Hersman and Nick Portolese are just two of the aspiring entrepreneurs looking to break into the industry. Having met at church 10 years ago, their bond over sports has now led them to attempt to build a successful marijuana business in Alameda, California.

The town has reserved certain parts for potential cannabis businesses. Alameda has also enacted legislation that will permit two medical dispensaries. The two men hope to be one of them, and would plan to open it next summer, with the appropriate name, Portman Enterprises.

Mark and Nick have also expressed an interest in opening a cannabis friendly social club with a country club atmosphere and entertainment, where monthly memberships would allow members to enjoy recreational cannabis.
Their reasoning for pursuing this business lies in both Nick’s remembrance of his parent’s suffering with cancer, and Mark’s deduction that those interested in cannabis don’t have a strong grasp on the business side. He states, “They have tremendous experience and technical skills in growing the plant and proper nutrition, fertilization, hydration techniques and that sort of thing…but they don’t know a lot about running a business — meeting payroll, regulation, audits and taxes, etc.”

The trouble for the duo lies in the expenses. Together, the total investment for both businesses is close to $8-$9 million. They have put $100,000 of their own money into research and development alone, and plan on conducting a capital raise and looking for investors. The problem has been shown to be the actual real estate for the business. Landlords are more restrictive on leasing to marijuana businesses and federal banks can pull loans on the building.

Sharon Golden, a business consultant and founder of the Alameda Island Cannabis Community, warns against the belief of getting rich quick. She explains for places like dispensaries, edibles, farms, and testing sites, that licenses and permits are pricey. Taxes are another issue, with 15% sales tax going toward adult use and adding the local 9.25% sales tax, costing the consumer 25% in sales tax.

Yet there’s room in the business for non-selling purposes, which Nate and Krystle Cameron plan on investing in. After opening Them People Productions, that provides safe social spaces for people of color, they now plan on creating events that allow the use of recreational marijuana. The effort comes from the understanding that people of color are more persecuted for their cannabis use. Their strategy is to find a venue, sometimes as a partner for the event, and pay the artists they hire from ticket sales. Krystle states the most they’ve personally spent is $1500.

Hopefully the stigma of marijuana will change to allow cannabis companies to have an easier foot in the door. Until then, those that are already investing are proving to be valuable allies in the fight for federal legalization.


High on the American Dream

The last few years have consisted of debates with lawmakers on the legalization of marijuana. Some states, like Colorado and Washington, have already taken matters into their own hands and have managed to make recreational marijuana legal through their state legislature. But, despite these breakthroughs, arrests over possession are a continued occurrence. There is one undeniable fact though, which has become a common thread with these arrests: that people of color are four times as likely to be arrested, and twice as likely to face charges for possession over a white person.

Thankfully, as the cannabis industry becomes more stabilized, it will be easier to combat the legal system and be of help to those arrested on minor possession charges. An article written by Leafly has already suggested that the best way to do this is by supporting local minority-owned cannabis companies. They provide a list of 12 of these top companies.

Below is a list of several of these businesses with brief descriptions. While it isn’t entirely complete, they are some of the leading cannabis companies that are shaping the industry.

Panacea Valley Gardens
This Oregon based company cultivates cannabis for medical purposes. It is owned by the chairman and co-founder of the Minority Cannabis Business Association (MCBA), Jesce Horton. He developed a vertically-integrated cannabis cultivation hub known a Saints Cloud in 2016. It’s expected to have 20,000 feet in cultivation space along with a dispensary, onsite-processing plant, and a water recycling, solar paneled, heat exchange system for maximum energy proficiency.

Hollingsworth Cannabis Company
The business is family owned and involves three generations. Raft Hollingsworth III works with his father, Raft Jr., his two sisters, and their 96-year-old grandmother, Dorothy. It is located in Washington and is a Tier III I-502 licensed cannabis producer and processor. They offer cannabis flowers and infused, triple filtered cannabis oil. Their naturally sustainable growth and harvesting practices are to ensure the company has as small a carbon footprint as possible.

Simply Pure
A dispensary located in Denver, Colorado owned by Wanda James and her husband, Scott Durrah. After Wanda’s brother was arrested and charged with a felony for possession as a teenager, she knew she had to fight the social injustice from cannabis arrests.

Supernova Women
The Women of Color in Cannabis, to help small cannabis industries become self-sufficient, formed the organization in 2015. Their most noteworthy service is providing a series called Shades of Green that educates colored communities on how to be involved with legislation for cannabis legalization, and how politics and local regulations can affect their business.

Other companies that were listed were Cali Premium Produce, Natural Blessing, Apothecarry, Euphorium, Zion Gardens, and Commencement Bay cannabis. These businesses are providing a large hand in helping the fight for cannabis legalization. Their biggest push is by having leadership run by people of minority groups habitually targeted for cannabis crimes. Being involved is the only way for positive change; so don’t forget to contribute your efforts towards a battle that matters!


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