The Oregon Cannabis Association (OCA) is calling on Portland city officials to cease using funds derived from the city’s cannabis tax to bolster law enforcement budgets, instead letting the revenue flow toward social programs and services that help minority communities, as per an agreement the organization had reached with the city when the new tax was implemented.
In a June 8 letter to Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler, the OCA, which represents more than 200 cannabis businesses in the Beaver State, says the city has not respected the agreement reached between officials and the OCA about how the 3% city cannabis tax is spent. The agreement spells out how the city agreed to allocate the funds. Areas identified include “Drug and alcohol education and treatment programs, … [public] safety, including police, fire, and transportation safety purposes that protect community members from unsafe drivers, … [and support] for innovative neighborhood small businesses, especially women-owned and minority-owned businesses.”
“In the past two years, only 14.5% of the funds were used for social equity,” the OCA noted in its letter, “with the remainder going largely to fund law enforcement positions.” The letter also notes that after allocating $410,000 “for a ‘service coordination team for access to drug/alcohol treatment’” through the police department in the first year, no funds were spent on such programs in the second year. The city’s police department received more than $2 million in cannabis tax revenue.
“We will no longer agree to allow the use of any of these cannabis sales tax dollars to fund police, particularly at the exclusion of these other critical services which provide a more direct and positive impact to the people of our city,” the OCA stated.
A copy of the OCA’s letter is embedded below.
On June 9, Wheeler announced the city would divert $12 million from the police bureau and other city departments to better support communities of color, as well as defund three police units and ban officers from using chokeholds.
The call for spending reform comes amid international protests calling for increased accountability against police brutality. These protests follow the recent deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery in Glynn County, Ga., and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Ky.
Floyd was killed by police officer Derek Chauvin on Memorial Day after Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for just under nine minutes, the last two with Floyd unresponsive. Chauvin is currently in custody and is charged with second-degree murder, third-degree murder and manslaughter.
Arbery was shot after being chased by father and son Gregory and Travis McMichael on February 23, both of whom were filmed and allegedly aided by neighbor William Bryan Jr. Arbery was jogging before the McMichaels chased him in their pickup truck as Bryan Jr. filmed the incident. It took nearly three months and an intervention from Georgia’s Advocates of Investigation (GBI) for charges to be filed against the McMichaels. They face murder and aggravated assault charges, while Bryan Jr. also was charged with murder and criminal attempt to commit false imprisonment.
Police killed Breonna Taylor in her home on March 13 while executing a no-knock warrant at the wrong home while searching for two people who were already in police custody. Police allegedly did not identify themselves and were shot at once by Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, who believed their home was being invaded. Police returned 20 shots, hitting Taylor eight times and killing her. No officers have been arrested, although Louisville’s police chief resigned following the police shooting death of black business owner David McAtee, which occurred amid the national protests.