Sacramento Bee reports……Seven months after the previous boss left, Sacramento’s new cannabis manager started work this week.
Before joining the city in the high-profile position, Davina Smith served as Solano County’s deputy county counsel, where she was the sole cannabis and code enforcement attorney. Smith replaces Joe Devlin, the city’s first cannabis chief, who left the office in May and now works in the industry for Ikänik Farms.
In Solano County, Smith provided research and organized tours for the Board of Supervisors as they considered whether to allow dispensaries and other cannabis businesses to open. After about two years of deliberating, the elected officials ultimately decided against it, Smith said.
Watch an interview with Smith at
Smith is no stranger to cannabis work, though.
Years ago, as an intern while in law school, her first research project involved working for a district attorney’s office examining fines for cannabis convictions for juvenile offenders, she said.
She has also worked as deputy county counsel at the Humboldt County District Attorney’s Office and as deputy county counsel for Humboldt County.
“In Humboldt County, it is very much a way of life. People are supporting their families, providing for retirement, paying for their senior class trips with cannabis money,” Smith said. “I thought this was an interesting opportunity to be a lot more involved on the policy side.”
Smith takes over a department that has been at the center of scrutiny for months.
The Sacramento Bee reported last year that a man indicted in October with Rudy Giuliani’s associates in a campaign-finance scheme co-owns a Sacramento dispensary. The man’s business partners own nine of the city’s 30 shops under the “Kolas” brand. In 2011, the business partners only owned two, city applications show. City code bars owners from selling or transferring permits.
While city staff had been checking since 2014 to ensure at least one name remains in the application from the previous year, dispensaries have been allowed to add new names of owners, then over time, remove the names of original owners. The City Council in November amended city code to prohibit people with an ownership interest in a storefront dispensary from obtaining an ownership interest in another dispensary.
In addition, the FBI is investigating whether pot business owners in Sacramento have bribed local officials in exchange for favorable treatment.
On just her second day on the job in Sacramento, Smith sat through a more than two-hour discussion over whether the council should lift the cap to allow more than 30 dispensaries in the city in order to help those most affected by the War on Drugs be able to open businesses.
Asked whether she had an opinion on that topic, Smith said she wants to leave it up to the elected officials.
“That’s the call of the City Council,” Smith said. “They’re the ones with the power.”
Smith, born in San Francisco to self-described “hippie” parents, said she’s familiar with the challenges of living in a home where a parent is incarcerated on drug charges.
“I personally know what that experience is like,” Smith said, referring to her father’s arrest on methamphetamine and firearms charges.
Smith said she understands the department will need to be flexible to cope with ever-changing state and federal laws.
“I think it’s important to acknowledge this is a really complex industry, and we are doing something revolutionary,” Smith said. “We have to be nimble. We have to be flexible and we have to respond as the laws change.”
While marijuana is legal in California, it’s still a Schedule 1 drug federally, meaning most cannabis businesses are turned away from traditional banks and have to operate solely in cash. Last year, the city collected $5.7 million in Business Operation Taxes, all in cash. The city even had to open a special room to safely process it.