Highs and lows

As City Council moves to crackdown on deliveries, cultivation and the High Times Cannabis Cup, is Sacramento as cannabis-friendly as we thought?

illustration by Maria Ratinova

In a state where a majority of cities continue to ban commercial cannabis businesses, Sacramento has earned a reputation for opening its doors to an industry created with the legalization of weed about two years ago.

But the image is being tested by recent City Council decisions. Both votes involve limits on cannabis businesses in southeast Sacramento, where the city has its highest concentration of industrial property. Certain cannabis businesses can only operate in industrial areas.

The City Council voted in May to limit cultivation in the southeast industrial area and plans to consider restrictions in other parts of town. The city put a cap on cultivation in the southeast area at 2.5 million square feet when it already had received applications for 2.8 million. Therefore, some applicants who’ve applied for a cultivation permit could be denied.

On Tuesday, September 18, the council’s Law and Legislation Committee voted 3-0 to recommend the approval of a one-year moratorium on more cannabis delivery companies in the southeast Sacramento area. The proposal would cap delivery services to 46, the same number of permit applications it received from businesses in the area. The full City Council was scheduled to vote on the proposed moratorium October 2, which occurred after print deadline.

The delivery moratorium is backed by the Power Inn Alliance, a business group representing the area. The alliance also pushed the cap on cultivation businesses. Tracey Schaal, executive director of the alliance, told the committee last week that the group wanted to “spread the love,” meaning that cannabis businesses need to relocate to other parts of the city.

The Power Inn Alliance has also expressed safety concerns about cannabis delivery because of the amount of cash and products carried by drivers.

Statewide, police and municipal leaders have put forth a similar argument, as they seek to block a proposed regulation by the state Bureau of Cannabis Control that would allow delivery anywhere in the state, even if a city has a ban on commercial cannabis activity.

But in Sacramento and across the state, delivery opponents have not presented any statistics showing increases in crime from the activity. Cannabis industry representatives acknowledge some risk in the activity, in part because federal banking restrictions have forced the industry to be largely cash-based, making them a potential robbery target. At the same time, cannabis delivery cars are not marked, making them more difficult for robbers to spot.

Another action in recent weeks saw the Law and Legislation Committee pull a permit request High Times Magazine needed for its planned Cannabis Cup at Cal Expo later this month, raising questions about whether it will be held. Councilman Jay Schenirer, who chaired the meeting, said the proposal wasn’t ready.

This might be why: High Times apparently has not fulfilled its obligations to the city following the Cannabis Cup held at Cal Expo in May. High Times faced some opposition on the council when it sought approval for the event just days before it was scheduled to start, and not long after a city council in Southern California had rejected cannabis consumption at another Cannabis Cup.

So High Times promised a windfall of tax revenue—more than $200,000—for the city of Sacramento. The event generated $60,000 in local tax revenue and High Times still hasn’t paid it to the city, according to Joe Devlin, the city’s Chief of Cannabis Policy and Enforcement.

High Times also promised to pay $140,000 to Build. Black., an advocacy group created after the Sacramento police shooting of Stephon Clark, an unarmed black man. Devlin said he has been told that the money has not been paid. Representatives for Build. Black. and High Times did not return calls seeking a response.

If the payments aren’t made soon, the City Council may not approve the Cannabis Cup set for October 27-28. Mayor Darrell Steinberg made his position clear when he told High Times that it must make the payment to Build. Black.: “Let’s put it this way: If they don’t pay the $140,000, they’re not coming back a second time.”