Pot Gets Legal, But Who Profits?

As the January 1st deadline to legalize marijuana distribution approaches,  the Sacramento City Council recently discussed the improvements made to the city’s new Cannabis Equity Program and Cannabis Cultivation enforcement.

In March of this year, Sacramento celebrated it’s plan provide business permits to marijuana dispensaries and estimated to collect $6.3 million in revenue over the next three years. The marijuana business is booming, but in order to get a cannabis growers’ permit, there are strict requirements put in place.

All marijuana growers are required to get a conditional use permit and a business permit, a security plan, odor control, business plan, water efficiency plan, lighting plan, energy efficiency plan, a background check, and the security requirements must be written by a professional, specified to every location, be UL certified, and verified by the Sacramento Police department.

“The development of high standards is vitally important,” said Joe Devlin, Chief of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement on November 21st. “But the ability to enforce those high standards is how we will ensure the cannabis industry ultimately reflects the values of our city.”

However, some worry that the strict requirements unfairly marginalize the number of possible marijuana distributors. For example, the licensing fees for indoor grow rooms with up to 5,000 square feet are nearly $10,000 the first year, and close to $30,000 for a indoor grow room up to 22,000 square feet. Also, state and local agencies are able to deny licenses to people with felony convictions, specifically narcotics offenses or other crimes related to the once illegal marijuana business.

“The communities that have most been harmed by the decades-long war on drugs deserve to be at the front of the line to benefit from the legalization of cannabis, done right,” Mayor Steinberg said during a November 28th meeting.

Many other community members shared the mayor’s sentiment including Kevin Daniel, an employee at the Greater Sacramento Urban League and resident of District 2, and Malaki Amen, President of the California Urban Partnership and resident of District 5.

“I’m definitely in favor of some equity and I know Sacramento believes in equity as well,” Daniel shared on November 28th. “It’s important that those communities have access to scholarships to pay for some of the fees, maybe business loans…we have to make sure that our communities get a chance to bounce back from this lucrative industry and not be left behind on the sidelines to watch.”

“Councilmembers, this item presents a greater opportunity to launch Sacramento’s newest industry with decency and with fairness,” Amen expressed. “Today you have the power to heal families and neighborhoods that were disproportionately destroyed by marijuana jail sentences…legally ending institutional poverty and generational racism, this is an honorable way to strengthen our local taxbase and make the city that we love a place that truly works for everyone.”