Portland, Oregon officials will no longer use cannabis-derived tax funds for the city’s police budget, the Chicago Tribune reports. Last week Mayor Ted Wheeler announced they city would redirect $12 million from the police department budget toward communities of color – at least $2 million of which comes from cannabis taxes and fees.
In an open letter to the mayor on June 10, the Oregon Cannabis Association called on city officials to use cannabis-derived funds for social programs and services that help minority communities. The letter notes that the organization had reached such an agreement with the city when the new, 3 percent, tax was implemented. The OCA notes that over the past two years just 14.5 percent of those funds were used for social equity.
“After giving the police $410,00 in the first year for a ‘service coordination team for access to drug/alcohol treatment,’ there were no cannabis tax dollars spent on drug and alcohol treatment in year two. Last year, police received an increase of well over $1 million dollars, taking in more than $2 million in cannabis tax revenues. This is simply unacceptable.” – Oregon Cannabis Association in a June 10 letter
The announcement by Wheeler – who also serves as police commissioner – is part of a broader police reform plan in the city that will defund three police units, including the gun violence reduction team, and ban officers from using chokeholds, the Oregonian reports.
“My privilege as a white man, my privilege as the mayor and the leader of the institutions of power in this community I believe shielded me from time to time from the many difficult and uncomfortable truths about our history and about our society,” Wheeler said during the announcement.
Portland Public Schools said last week that they would no longer assign police to the district’s nine high schools or the two other school districts inside Portland city limits, the Oregonian report notes.
Of the $12 million that Wheeler said would be invested into communities of color, $7 million would come from the police bureau while $5 million would be disbursed from other, not yet identified, city funds. The $7 million is less than 3 percent of the current estimated budget for the police bureau.