The city of Sacramento created a cannabis equity program dedicated to assisting individuals and communities facing barriers to starting a cannabis business. These barriers may be due to historical disparate enforcement on cannabis crimes throughout the years. Social inequality in the cannabis industry and surrounding cannabis crimes is not new. Sacramento has a predominantly white cannabis industry, but this program is working to change that. The city created the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity program (CORE). For the past year, this program has been helping create delivery and cultivation businesses in Sacramento.  

This has been an ongoing effort to help create some equality within the cannabis industry. This has even allowed for the first black woman to earn a cannabis business permit. 

Betty Mitchell: Tively Cannabis Food Blend

Betty Mitchell is the very first black woman to earn a cultivation license in the city of Sacramento. From the age of 19, she knew she wanted to get into the cannabis business, although it was not legal at the time. She said if it ever did become legal, she’d do it. Thanks to her uncle, she learned about cannabis properties and the possible combinations with food. 

Mitchell began the process at the CORE program with 13 other participants. Eventually, it was just her. She became the first CORE participant to obtain a waiver from the city for the cost of a cannabis business operation permit. Normally, a permit would’ve cost her $10,000. But with the help of Sacramento’s Cannabis Equity program CORE, it was cost-free for Mitchell. 

Mitchell’s business, Tively, will start as a wholesaler to storefronts and dispensaries.

About the Program CORE

CORE was created on November 28, 2017. The City Council of Sacramento authorized staff to create a program that addressed the negative impacts of disproportionate enforcement of cannabis-related regulation in the city. Most of this enforcement occurred prior to the adoption of Proposition 64. Proposition 64 was passed in 2016 and granted legal use of marijuana for adults 21 and older. 

CORE assists by adopting a zero-dollar fee and appropriate funding for business permits. 

On March 26, 2019, the City Council decided to have two organizations administer this cannabis equity program. The Sacramento Asian Chamber of Commerce (SACC) and the Greater Sacramento Urban League (GSUL) are now in charge. 

How to Apply

The CORE program is administered by SACC and GSUL. Eligible applicants must submit applications to those organizations. If you are interested in becoming a participant in the Sacramento CORE program, you must contact them directly. Those who have previously submitted an interest form will be contacted by the organizations. More information about eligibility and contact details are on the CORE program’s website.  

Cannabis Early Days

For thousands of years, the cannabis plant has been a medical remedy in several cultures. Interestingly, there are reports of cannabis use tracked back to ancient China, specifically used by Emperor Shen Nung (3500-2600 BCE). Marijuana was mainly used to treat issues, such as inflammation, nausea, and depression. 

In other cultures, marijuana is an important component of religious practice. There’s evidence that suggests ancient cultures using cannabis for its psychoactive properties during religious ceremonies or healing practices. 

Stigma Against Cannabis

During the beginning of the 20th century, the opium crisis was occurring throughout the world. The Federal Food and Drugs Act of 1906 required the labeling of over-the-counter medication stating if it contained cannabis. In addition, it also required the labeling of cocaine and heroin. At the time, all of these drugs were still legal. 

It was until after the Mexican Revolution in 1910 that there was a shift. After this event, a large number of Latino immigrants began moving into the southern states. The Mexican population had been using cannabis recreationally. They referred to it as “marihuana”. Although Americans were using cannabis medically, they were unfamiliar with the term “marihuana”. Additionally, the concept of recreational cannabis use was unfamiliar to them. 

Racist propaganda against Mexican immigrants further pushed a stigma against cannabis. Marijuana as a drug became associated with Spanish speaking immigrants. Headlines such as “Mexican Menace” and “Marihuana Menace” covered the newspapers. This was the first step towards criminalizing cannabis. 

In fact, California was the first state to pass a cannabis prohibition law in 1913. Eventually, misconceptions about marijuana began spreading across the country. These misconceptions culminated during the Richard Nixon Administration. 

The Nixon Administration passed the Boggs Act of 1952 and the Narcotics Controls Act of 1956. The act made prison sentences a requirement for drug crimes, such as possession of marijuana. At the same time, the Warren Commission Report found that marijuana did not cause violent behavior or led to heavier drugs. However, the Nixon Administration classified marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. 

With movements like Sacramento’s Cannabis Equity program CORE, we can move towards less stigma. These types of programs also help create equal grounds for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds.