Lack of access to capital and navigating a two-tiered state and local regulatory system are just two of the many barriers to entry that many aspiring cannabis business operators face in California. Usually, these challenges are multiplied for minority-owned businesses.

That’s why, in 2017, the city of Sacramento launched its Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program to help remove barriers to entry and provide support for these businesses.

RELATED: Sacramento Plans to Use State Funding to Help Cannabis Businesses Navigate Licensing Process

Here, Davina Smith, manager of Sacramento’s Office of Cannabis Management, shares insight into how the program works.

Melissa Schiller: What is Sacramento’s CORE social equity program?

Davina Smith: Launched in 2017, the city of Sacramento’s Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program was created to assist individuals and communities facing barriers to starting cannabis businesses due to the historical disparate enforcement of cannabis crimes. To be eligible for the CORE program, individuals and businesses must qualify under one of five classifications.

General program benefits may include but are not limited to: business plan development, business monitoring, coaching on access to capital, business needs assessment, loan readiness assessment, market assessment, data and research strategies and support, assistance with a legal entity, assistance with criminal records expungement, lease negotiation assistance, small business legal considerations, mentoring, fiscal management, marketing/social media, technical training, employee training and regulatory compliance.

MS: What kind of obstacles do minority-owned businesses face in Sacramento, and how does the CORE program aim to address these issues?

DS: Obstacles include a lack of access to capital, a complicated two-tiered regulatory system, difficulty in locating viable business locations, difficulty in accessing the regulated marketplace, and in some cases, a lack of experience in running a small business in a highly regulated industry.

MS: Why is it important for local governments like Sacramento to implement programs like this to help minority-owned businesses succeed in the cannabis industry?

DS: It really comes down to fairness and to addressing systemic inequalities. During the war on drugs, the people most impacted by the disproportionate criminalization of cannabis were people of color, particularly Black males from low-income households. The city cannot go back and rewrite that history, but it can proactively assist those impacted individuals with entering and operating in the legal cannabis industry.

MS: Is there a particular success story that stands out to you that you’re able to share, highlighting how a minority-owned business was able to succeed because of the CORE program?

DS: Nine of the 22 permitted CORE businesses are owned by women of color. One is a small manufacturer who was able to find a location to operate in and obtain her business operating permit by using networking relationships, technical assistance and financial assistance provided through the CORE program. She has reported that her products are selling out, and she’s working to increase her manufacturing capacity and place her products with even more vendors.

MS: What are some of the goals for the CORE program as we head into 2022?

DS: Goals for the CORE program in 2022 include increasing financial, small-business and cannabis-educational support for CORE members, working toward standing up a workforce development program, creating a market demand for CORE businesses and products through a comprehensive marketing/public-awareness campaign and bringing forward options to the city council for an expanded cannabis equity program.