Local government officials, cannabis entrepreneurs and industry advocates came together to demonstrate support for the release of the Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT)’s policy report.
The report is instrumental in recommending how the City’s cannabis tax revenue can support communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition, while acknowledging CPOT's role in advancing policy to aid cannabis businesses who continue to deal with the aftermath of COVID, increased burglaries and vandalism, and wildfires.
Dozens participated in-person and tuned in for the livestream as Portland officials and cannabis influencers underscored the importance of destigmatizing cannabis use.
The event was livestreamed and recorded on YouTube.
CPOT Proactively Influences Cannabis Policy to Shape Industry's Future
The historic press conference was mobilized by CPOT, the City’s official cannabis advisory body consisting of community stakeholders, including the country’s top cannabis industry leaders.
Established in 2015, CPOT explores current cannabis laws and policies at the local, state, and federal level. CPOT also provides industry perspective to the Office of Community & Civic Life’s Cannabis Program, and ultimately informs the City of Portland on cannabis-related policies. The all-volunteer group holds semi-monthly public sessions to discuss and develop policies with the intent to deliver industry diversity, equity, accessibility, and sustainability for the City Cannabis Program's total benefit.
"CPOT proactively shapes cannabis policy and develops new approaches to industry destigmatization, cannabis competency and regulatory support," said City of Portland Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson. "I want to commend the Oregon market, but specifically the Portland market, because to me, it's the most progressive market in the country, and certainly the most sensible. We have over 400 licenses under the program, and we continue to look for ways in which we can drive equity, accessibility and sustainability in the industry."
Cannabis Equity & Justice: Why is Cannabis Policy Reform Needed?
CPOT's policy recommendations center equity. The emerging cannabis market has been finding its way toward environmental sustainability, human equity, economic resilience and justice for past injuries due to cannabis prohibition.
"When it comes to expunging past cannabis-related criminal records, this should not solely be the work of the City of Portland," said City of Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty. "We need the State of Oregon to step-up and expunge previous nonviolent cannabis-related convictions from all peoples' records. And, we need the federal government to get with the times, and change the federal classification of cannabis so our small businesses can stop struggling with the weight of an extreme tax burden, low- to no-insurance, astronomical bank fees, and ineligibility for federal support even during a global pandemic. It is the modern equivalency of taxation without representation."
The City shared that 412 active local cannabis licensees exist with an estimated 13% of them being BIPOC-owned. CPOT is looking for more ways to increase equity, diversity and opportunity within the multi-billion dollar industry.
Although 2021 was another record sales year for the Oregon cannabis industry, the simultaneous crises of COVID, burglaries, and wildfires, while being excluded from federal aid and COVID relief, left the cannabis industry without any emergency support.
CPOT quickly got to work, and advised Civic Life and Portland City Council to administer the $1.33 million Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund. The vote was historic as Portland became the first government jurisdiction in the country to allocate cannabis tax revenue to help cannabis businesses and workers as they continue to endure the impacts of robberies, COVID-19, and wildfires.
On April 1, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 220-204 in favor of the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act (HR 3617) that legalizes cannabis on the federal level.
U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer helped pass this bill. If passed, this measure would require federal courts to expunge prior cannabis convictions and hold resentencing hearings for those completing their sentences. It also authorizes a 5% sales tax on cannabis and cannabis products that would be used for grant programs focused on job training, substance abuse treatment and loans to help disadvantaged small businesses get into the industry.
The MORE Act is headed to the Senate, and is expected to face strong headwinds. Three Senate champions are leading the bill's efforts, including Senators Schumer, Booker and Wyden.
Source: Cannabis Policy Oversight Team