Portland, Oregon, a city that has been at the forefront of the legalization of recreational and medical marijuana, has approved a $1.8 million plan to fund local cannabis equity programs. The funds will be used by the City to support programs that foster community engagement, promote public health, and reduce “cannabis-associated harms” in Portland, Oregon.
The City of Portland and Multnomah County have awarded more than $2 million in cannabis equity, restorative justice and community reinvestment grants. The funding is part of Portland’s commitment to ensure that communities disproportionately affected by cannabis use are able to benefit from the industry.
The City of Portland has approved the first of two grants that will support the use of cannabis, cannabis equity and restorative justice practices in the city’s justice system. The grants are intended to help communities of color, immigrants, low-income people and other communities that are disproportionately affected by the war on drugs, which has had a devastating impact on their lives and communities.. Read more about what is restorative justice and let us know what you think. As the movement to legalize cannabis continues to gain momentum and drive policy change, it is important that equality and social justice come first, not second. The work being done in Oregon could serve as a model for other legalized states and, hopefully, someday at the federal level. Recently, the Portland City Council unanimously approved the Office of Community and Civic Life’s Social Equity and Educational Development (SEED) initiative, which will award a total of $1.8 million to 17 local nonprofit organizations and businesses. It is the largest urban grant initiative in the United States, focused on racial equity and social justice. The City Council has determined that the tax should be used for three purposes:
- Economic opportunity and education for communities, neighborhoods and small businesses disproportionately affected by cannabis prohibition.
- Public Safety
- Drug and alcohol treatment programmes
These funds assist, strengthen and promote restorative justice, community reinvestment and wealth creation for Black, Indigenous and people of colour (BIPOC) who have been disproportionately affected by over 80 years of cannabis prohibition laws. I am excited that we are becoming a national benchmark for equity and restorative justice in cannabis tax revenue, said Dashida Dawson, director of the cannabis program. We are taking the lead by being the first program in the country to link reinvestment to cannabis tax revenue. Dawson is a true advocate and leader of ideas who has been instrumental in getting this program off the ground. SEED initiatives are managed by Civic Life’s Cannabis Program and provide a means to monitor, measure and report Portland’s cannabis tax revenue from a single source. This program is the largest and first equity-focused regulatory program in the country to be led by the city, and it has become the primary regulatory framework rapidly developed to realize the restorative and remedial potential of the cannabis legalization movement. Arrests for marijuana possession and sales have dropped since Oregon legalized cannabis in 2014, but the state still disproportionately punishes black residents for cannabis-related offenses. Although blacks and whites are equally likely to use marijuana, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) reported that in 2018, a black resident of Multnomah County was 2.6 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white resident. The consequences of arrest or incarceration can be devastating to a person’s entire life, affecting job opportunities, housing security, and more. SEED initiatives were created to provide opportunities and support to communities that have historically suffered from the effects of cannabis prohibition. Oregon is making great strides in decriminalizing cannabis use and possession. According to the ACLU’s A Tale of Two Cities report, Oregon has one of the lowest racial disparities in the country in marijuana arrests – black Oregonians are 1.8 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis use. However, there are still racial disparities in arrests. The following table shows the 2018 data provided by the ACLU: I am proud of all the work we have done and the positive results we have seen. The Board approved a new round of grants to communities under Civic Life’s historic SEED initiatives. This is important work because we are dismantling unjust systems on the ground – in this case, the policies that have historically punished black, indigenous and communities of colour for cannabis possession and use. Through SEED initiatives, we are building new systems so that Portlanders who previously suffered from systemic racism benefit financially from new policies. This is a historic moment for Portland as we transform our government to create equitable policies and programs for all communities, especially communities of color who continue to face systemic racial disparities. – Jo Ann Hardesty, Portland City Commissioner
Portland’s cannabis journey focused on equality for all
In the United States, the use and possession of cannabis for any purpose remains illegal under federal law, under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970. However, recreational use of cannabis is legal in 17 states, including the District of Columbia, the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam. SEED initiatives will receive 54% of cannabis tax revenue in FY 2021-22. Prior to the City’s last fiscal budget, the Portland Police Bureau (PPB) received a portion of the tax under the heading of public safety. However, in response to community input, Portland SCH no longer receives money from cannabis taxes, and instead the city has doubled its direct investment in the community through SEED initiatives. Recipient of SEEDgrants, Portland Opportunity Industrialization Center (POIC) Pre-Apprenticeship Program in Construction. The program prepares youth of color and low-income youth for full-time internships and professional careers in the construction industry with a living wage. In the first three years of the grant program, SEED Initiatives distributed $1.5 million to 15 grantees who received 72 applications. More applications were received for this year’s SEED initiatives than in the past three years combined, and thanks to the City Council’s commitment to permanently fund the SEED initiatives, the grant program was able to award a total of $1.8 million to 17 applicants for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 grant cycles. The full list of grant recipients can be found here.
Example of use of SEED subsidy in employment
The Portland Opportunity Industrialization Center (POIC) and the Rosemary Anderson High School Construction Readiness Program (RAHS) have been SEED Foundation-supported programs for three years. Their programme focuses on Black, Indigenous and Coloured (BIPOC) communities, low-income communities and people leaving prison. Their program is an introduction to various construction trades and provides 288 hours of paid training. The program also includes training in financial literacy and soft skills. Graduates of the program receive a flagger certificate, practical skills, first aid training, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 10 certificate. The program provides direct access to full-time apprenticeship programs, unions, or full-time careers as line mechanics, laborers, and HVAC/plate workers. Our program gives people access to exciting new career opportunities, says Megan Bell, Director of Employment and Training. Construction is an incredible opportunity for the young people we work with, especially those with previous arrests or convictions, which can affect their employability in other sectors. I would like to see more apprenticeship programs commit to employing graduates of pre-training programs. The program provides an opportunity to meet people where they are and help them learn something new while changing the direction of their lives, says development director Ruben Fonseca. Our program offers not only vocational training in the field of construction, but also comprehensive services that everyone needs to succeed, such as Examples are childcare, addressing housing or food insecurity, helping people get a driver’s license, open a bank account, and participate in financial literacy courses to become financially independent in the long run. Brandon Lane has found new opportunities after graduating from the 2019 Construction Pre-Apprenticeship program. He now works for O’Neill Electric, Inc. where he makes a living and supports his biggest driving force, his son. I just want to work hard, do my job well and help others follow the same path as me, Lane says. The work of a good electrician brings stability and consistency to my life. Being an electrician is a profession I can do in any state… and it will always give me work. About the Office for Public and Civic Life The City of Portland’s Office of Community and Civic Life (Civic Life) connects Portlanders with city government to promote the common good. Our programs create a culture of collaboration and enable all Portlanders to use their knowledge, expertise and creativity to solve local problems and improve the city we all share.
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