Weeding out the black market: Sheriff’s deputies seize 10 pounds of marijuana at Sacramento airport

City of Sacramento officials explore new equity program for regulated marijuana businesses

This is an extended version of a story that appears in the November 16, 2017, issue.

A week before Sacramento city officials began putting the finishing touches on their approach to legal marijuana sales, county sheriff’s deputies were busting an alleged black market operator moving pounds of illicit greens through the capital’s international airport.

According to the Sheriff’s Department, the incident occurred Sunday, November 5, at Sacramento International Airport. Deputies responded to a call from Transportation Security Administration agents about a suspicious suitcase flagged by their “explosive detection system.” TSA agents reportedly decided to give the suitcase a closer look, discovering 10 “clear, plastic vacuum-sealed packages” of marijuana wrapped inside of clothing, an incident summary states.

Arriving deputies noted that the suitcase had a bag-tag for a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Denver, and then from Denver to Atlanta. The name on the bag-tag allegedly said Stacey Jernard Burgess of Scranton, S.C. The incident summary says the luggage’s 10 bags of marijuana weighed roughly 10 pounds.

Before boarding his flight, Burgess, 32, was arrested by deputies and booked into the county jail on charges possession and transportation of illicit marijuana.

The following week, the city’s Law and Legislative Committee began working to create an equity program aimed at helping people in minority and underprivileged neighborhoods tap into new financial opportunities within the legal, regulated marijuana industry. City officials are billing the program as chance to help would-be operators navigate administrative barriers and learn to develop small business plans.

The city’s cannabis czar, Joe Devlin, said the program will help neighborhoods “most impacted by the Drug War.”

The committee also discussed the possibility of establishing permits for two different types of cannabis dispensaries, differentiating between storefront and delivery-only operations. Council members will be considering capping the number of storefront dispensaries at 30, with a lottery system for getting back permits that are revoked due to law enforcement actions.