Grant Program Aims to Help Economically Disadvantaged Enter the Cannabis Industry Legally

SACRAMENTO --Since cannabis was legalized in California, thousands of entrepreneurs have tried or have successfully joined in on making green from the green.

But, what about those from neighborhoods negatively impacted from cannabis criminalization in the past?

It's no secret, the decades long war on drugs did not treat everyone the same.

Many say it all depended on what neighborhood you lived in.

"Certain neighborhoods had a greater or disproportionate number of arrests for cannabis so neighborhoods like Meadowview, like Del Paso Heights, like Oak Park," explained Joe Devlin, Sacramento's Chief of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement.

And, numbers show it may have also depended on what you looked like.

Data from the Sacramento Police Department shows in 2010, African Americans made up 14 percent of the population in Sacramento but accounted for 47 percent of cannabis related arrests.

"Individuals who live in economically disadvantaged areas or individuals who were disproportionately targeted during the failed war on drug policy," Amy Jenkins, California Cannabis Industry Association, said.

Now that recreational marijuana is legal in California, a new bill signed into law by former Governor Jerry Brown last year is giving people in those same neighborhoods a chance to enter the cannabis industry, legally.

The California Cannabis Equity Act sets aside $10 million for cities like Sacramento to apply for the money.  It will go to people who can’t afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars it takes to open a cannabis store.

"We want these dollars directly into supporting those persons," Devlin said.

Jenkins said everyone deserves a chance to enter the space.

"One of our core policy objectives is removing barriers to entry into the compliant cannabis marketplace," Jenkins explained.

But, the question many in the cannabis industry are asking:  Does $10 million split throughout the entire state solve the problem? Or even begin to touch it?

Robert Baca with the Sacramento Cannabis Industry Association said it’s a good start but it could go further.

He believes too many regulations and high taxes could be the biggest obstacle for entrepreneurs.

"They not only have to jump in and compete with existing businesses but they need compete with the illicit market and if the regulatory system and the taxation system doesn’t allow them to compete with the illicit market, its a recipe for disaster," Baca said.

"I think it will be a true test to see how many local jurisdictions take advantage of this program and whether it actually meets the funding needs of the program," Jenkins said.

The city has until April 1 to get their application into the state, then the money will eventually become available to applicants as soon as next month.

If you would like to find out more about the City of Sacramento’s Local Equity Program, click HERE, we have a link of the qualifications for the program on our website.

 

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