By Rachel Wulff

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — Two million dollars in state money is now headed to the city of Sacramento to “level the playing field” when it comes to cannabis businesses.

There are 30 permitted cannabis storefront dispensaries in the city of Sacramento and none of them are black-owned. Brandon Bolton hopes to change that. The young entrepreneur from Meadowview has been working in the cannabis industry for years and says he has been on the wrong side of the law in the past.

“One hundred percent of my family members, that’s what we had to do out here in Meadowview to survive,” Bolton said.

He now wants to open his own dispensary and is poised to do that thanks to the Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) program. He is one of 117 individuals in the CORE program.

“The opportunity that I now have to get access to the technical experience, the access to capital, I never would have had this opportunity,” Bolton said.

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In 2017, the city council created CORE to address the negative impacts of disproportionate cannabis-related enforcement.

Robert Baca is with the Sacramento Cannabis Industry Association.

“That harkens back to a time where the feds were coming in strong, it was a different environment than what we’re operating in now,” Baca said.

Bryan Smith, a former medical marijuana dispensary owner who served three years in federal prison after the feds raided his business, is also pushing for more equity in the cannabis industry.

“Going forward, I would ask that the city council give an opportunity that exclusively allowed equity members to have dispensaries with no cap,” Smith said.

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City council is debating whether there should be additional dispensary permits and who should get them. Mayor Darrell Steinberg suggested 10. Baca says it’s an open and ongoing discussion.

“We want to see a growing, healthy industry,” Baca said.

Bolton says adding dispensaries will not only help him grow his cannabis business but also others with past arrest records.

“It allows me to organize these individuals that are still in that space, and say ‘hey there’s a pathway, the correct way out of this,” Bolton said.

Initially, council members were considering allowing up to 30 dispensaries per year, but now it looks like they’ll be allowing closer to 10 per year.