SACRAMENTO, Calif. —
Getting into the marijuana industry can be hard, but Maisha Bahati is glad she gave it a shot.
Bahati is the co-owner of Crystal Nugs, the first women and minority-owned cannabis delivery service in Sacramento. Their business opened in March 2019, but they started the process right after Prop 64 passed in 2016.
“It took us a year to find a location. That was the hardest part,” Bahati said. “We signed our lease in April 2018, licensed in December 2018, opened March 2019 and here we are.”
But Crystal Nugs is a rarity in the legal marijuana business.
“This is an industry dominated by white males,” said Eli McVey research editor at Marijuana Business Daily.
McVey oversaw the 2019 “Women and Minorities in the Cannabis Industry” report, which says “concerns over a lack of social equity and diversity in the cannabis industry have existed from the start of marijuana legalization.”
In 2017, city leaders in Sacramento implemented a social equity program for people who’ve been affected by the “historically disparate enforcement of cannabis crimes.” The Cannabis Opportunity Reinvestment and Equity (CORE) Program was created to “assist individuals and communities facing barriers to starting cannabis businesses.”
Bahati is in the CORE Program. She qualified as a low-income applicant and was accepted into the first cohort of the program.
“I think the CORE program is very much needed. My purpose for being in the CORE is that I want to be the first minority-owned dispensary,” Bahati said.
Bahati's office is filled with cannabis products — flower, bath bombs, edibles, topicals, vapes — ready to be packaged and delivered throughout Sacramento. At their shop, Bahati also makes a point to feature women-owned brands.
“We found our niche. We found our market. We found our clientele. It’s just a feminine touch that I think we present and I think is needed in the industry,“ Bahati said.
She also thinks more women of color are needed in the cannabis industry.
“I’m trying to put cannabis out there and present it not how most of us see it. Professional people use it. It’s OK. It’s legal,” Bahati said. “So, not only am I trying to crush the stereotype of what cannabis is, I’m trying to present minority women as very professional in this business and we can handle it.”
And although Bahati knows getting into the cannabis industry is expensive, she said people shouldn’t be deterred by the cost.
“You could get in the door with the minimum and just go from there. Don’t think that just because you don’t have $100,000 that you can’t get in the building,” Bahati said.
Business is going well for Crystal Nugs. They recently hired their fifth delivery driver and Bahati has a line of signature cannabis products launching next year.
"We're going to have our own line," Bahati said. "I'm marketing my own brand of pre-rolls and flower. So, that will be in the market as well and...we're working towards opening a dispensary."
She and her business partners, Melina and Bryan Brown, have also secured the only cannabis event organizer license in the city of Sacramento. They’ll soon sign a contract with Cal Expo to host their first cannabis-infused event on Sept. 26, 2020.
"We're putting on the first ever comedy joint. It's going to be a cannabis infused comedy show, seating 4,000 people," Bahati said. "We really want to push that event license and let them know here's a whole different entertainment market that we're opening up. Work with us so we can expand."
Ultimately, Bahati said she wants to go as big as possible within the cannabis industry.
"Being in the industry, especially as a Black person, and when you really look at the war on drugs and how Black people were treated, and now look who's profiting off it. We are nowhere to be found. So, I said I'm going to go as far as I can go... And as I grow, I'm going to bring people in."
FOR NEWS IN YOUR COMMUNITY,
DOWNLOAD THE ABC10 APP:
►Stay In the Know! Sign up now for ABC10's Daily Blend Newsletter
WATCH MORE: Women of color in the cannabis industry | RAW
Cannabis business owner Maisha Bahati wants to see more women of color reap the rewards of the cannabis industry.