Sacramento is moving forward with a new program to help ensure that the city’s growing marijuana industry benefits the most disadvantaged neighborhoods.
The city council unanimously approved the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment Equity (CORE) program, which focuses on zip codes with the highest rates of marijuana-related offenses to offer individuals and businesses incentives to become part of the cannabis industry.
According to the Sacramento Police Department Crime Analysis Unit, nine zip codes — compromising eight neighborhoods — showed disproportionate rates of cannabis-related arrests between 2004 and 2017:
- Downtown (95811)
- Land Park (95818)
- Oak Park (95817)
- Parkway Meadowview (95823)
- Del Paso Heights South (95815)
- Florin Perkins (95826)
- Fruitridge (95820)
- Elder Creek (95824 and 95828)
People who live — or have lived — in these zip codes have an opportunity to receive financial assistance and mentorship to start their own cannabis business.
Eligible individuals must meet one of three criteria between 1980 and 2011:
- Have been arrested or convicted for a non-violent marijuana offense.
- Have an immediate family member who has been arrested or convicted.
- Resided in the eligible zip codes for at least five years.
“We have a goal of having 50 percent of all licenses be awarded to those who were impacted by the war on drugs,” said Malaki Amen with the California Urban Partnership. “If you were sent to jail or arrested and you were in an area that was disproportionately impacted — you experienced generational poverty. It doesn’t matter if you are Black, White, Latino or Asian. You will be able to qualify for this program.”
Some of the benefits of the CORE program:
- Business permit fees will be waived, which can range from a couple thousand to tens of thousands of dollars.
- Priority processing of the participant’s cannabis related business and conditional use permits.
- Ongoing support and mentorship, such as business plan development, assistance with criminal record expungement, and loan readiness assistance.
“This is going to be a learning experience for us and we are going to make some mistakes. We can’t be afraid to fail,” Sacramento Councilmember Jay Schenirer said. “This is an experiment in a lot of ways. I hope that we will learn from it and continue to make it better as we go forward.”
The CORE program will be funded for two years and plans to begin accepting applicants by the end of the year.
Schenirer hopes after the first businesses are established, tax revenue generated will go back into CORE so that the program can be financially self-supporting.
The approval comes almost two years after the city authorized staff to begin working on an equity program for the cannabis industry in November 2017.
Amen said Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland have similar programs.