Tag: Cannabis Equity Act

Oregon Equity Investment Act Helps Lead the Automatic Expungement Revolution

The jobs created and revenue generated by legalizing and regulating cannabis garners most of the headlines and it is certainly great for the cannabis community to be able to venture into stores like Kind Leaf to access amazing strains and products, but the foundation of the movement is criminal justice reform. Too many lives are hurt and ruined by the classist and racist War on Drugs. Most tragically, innocent people like Breonna Taylor and Kathryn Johnston have been killed in drug raids while the United States embarrassingly has the highest rate of incarcerated residents in the world because of unjust drug laws. Harmful convictions then follow people for their entire lives, hindering education, employment, and housing opportunities. PBS covered how automatic expungement of to clear previous cannabis convictions is picking up steam in states that have ended prohibition:

Sixteen states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational marijuana over the last nine years, and industry advocates have applauded measures to de-stigmatize the substance and bring major revenue to state coffers.

But for people with lingering drug convictions like Michael, the news has raised more questions about what legalization means for their criminal records.

Currently in Virginia, “you have to go through all these hoops and loopholes to actually have an expungement,” Michael said. This may soon change. Like many other states that recently legalized marijuana, Virginia lawmakers included provisions in their legislation that over several years will allow for the automatic expungement of certain marijuana convictions, meaning people like Michael may one day see their records cleared without having to petition to do so.

Oregon House Bill 3112, the Equity Investment Act, previously known as the Cannabis Equity Act, would add momentum to this important revolution. An email from the Cannabis Equity PAC and the NuLeaf Project explained:

In July 2020, our workgroup came together in response to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and a rash of other police violences against Black people that represent the extreme cases of a prevailing problem: racially-biased over-policing. Our workgroup was earnestly formed by community and legislators as a reparative justice response with cannabis as the tool for justice.

Cannabis possession arrests contributed to a multi-generational economic downward spiral for Black communities. As available tax dollars from legal cannabis continues to grow, cannabis is the right nexus to address equity in Black communities. 

***

Equity Investment Act’s 4 parts are:

  • Community investment fund comprised of 25% of cannabis taxes and 10% of Criminal Fines Account, representing app. $50M initially 
  • Free, automatic expungement for cannabis possession crimes, including expungement for people who still owe fines and fees
  • Cannabis equity licenses, including addition of On Premise and Delivery licenses
  • Office & board to implement community investments and track effectiveness

Clearing your criminal record of nonviolent conduct, especially when that conduct has become legal, should not be dependent upon your ability to navigate a complicated process and pay an attorney and filing fees. It’s immoral for a state to continue punishing people for conduct that has become a regulated billion-dollar industry putting millions upon millions into the state’s coffers. A sincere thanks to the Cannabis Equity PAC and the NuLeaf Project for helping lead this important fight in Oregon and all advocates that are putting in the time to achieve more justice here in the Great Northwest and across our nation.

New York Making Progress on Cannabis! Psilocybin Mushrooms Next?

As cannabis legalization for medical purposes and adult-use have advanced state by state across the nation, a familiar pattern has emerged: states with the initiative process are the earliest pioneers while those depending upon legislators lag behind and end up passing more restrictive laws. While New York may lag behind 15 other states (and Washington DC), the Empire State seems to be on the verge of passing a rather progressive legalization law, as The New York Times reports:

The deal would allow delivery of the drug and permit club-like lounges or “consumption sites” where marijuana, but not alcohol, could be consumed, according to details obtained by The New York Times. It would also allow a person to cultivate up to six marijuana plants at home, indoors or outdoors, for personal use.

If approved, the first sales of legal marijuana are likely more than a year away: Officials must first face the daunting task of writing the complex rules that will control a highly regulated market, from the regulation of wholesalers and dispensaries, to the allocation of cultivating and retail licenses, to the creation of new taxes and a five-member control board that would oversee the industry.

The deal was crafted with an intense focus on making amends in communities impacted by the decades-long war on drugs. Millions of dollars in tax revenue from cannabis sales would be reinvested in minority communities each year, and a sizable portion of business licenses would be reserved for minority business owners.

If The Times is correct, New York’s legalization law will likely reverberate across the nation and even the world since the state is an international media and financial powerhouse. Other states, especially those sharing a border, will certainly be influenced to move towards ending prohibition more quickly, and even Oregon advocates, looking to pass the Cannabis Equity Act, a bill that includes licensed cannabis cafes and social equity provisions, could receive a boost as well.

Additionally, the race to be the next mayor of the Big Apple could add to the growing drug decriminalization movement, especially regarding psilocybin mushrooms, as New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang recently stated, “I’m for legalization of psilocybin mushrooms, and I’m open to the public policy impact of legalizing other substances.”

Regardless of whether Yang wins, a serious New York City mayoral candidate with a positive position on drug policy is great for our movement to end the failed and harmful Drug War. Of course, Oregon has helped move the national debate on psilocybin and other drugs, something that Beaver State voters can be proud of. As we have seen with cannabis, success begets success, and advancements across the nation, both at the state and local level, help advocates build upon victories as we chip away at the War on Drugs.

Oregon House Bill 3112, the Cannabis Equity Act, Is a Great Step Forward

You know that the cannabis community, and our nation, has made great strides against Reefer Madness prohibition when the discussion changes from “whether to legalize” to “how to legalize.” I may prefer some proposals over others, but I tend to end up supporting any measure that improves upon the status quo and will keep more nonviolent people who aren’t hurting anyone else, from being arrested and jailed. In 2014, Oregon made great strides when it was the third state to vote to legalize, but the law wasn’t perfect. We made more progress in 2015 by further reducing criminal penalties and adding expungement provisions through legislation. One of the highlights of my activism career was reading about a man with “tears of joy” because he could finally clear his record of an old marijuana felony conviction. Still, there’s more work to be done in Oregon, and House Bill 3112, known as the Cannabis Equity Act, is an attempt at taking another great step forward in righting the wrongs of the racist and failed Drug War.

To each their own, but my personal favorite provision of the Cannabis Equity Act is the automatic expungement of old cannabis offenses. Our criminal justice system has too many injustices, and one of its major failings is the disparate treatment people get based upon how much money they have. Of course, people understand that having money allows you to hire top lawyers, or even a Dream Team of attorneys, but a lack of funds can detrimentally impact your criminal justice proceedings long after your trial. One example of that is the ability to clear your criminal record. As I previously mentioned, I loved reading about the man who had tears of joy after his expungement. However, too many don’t have the money to hire an attorney or pay the required court fees needed to expunge their records. There are great people and organizations that assist people with expungement, but you have to know about them and the events they host and be able to get there. Clearing your record of an offense shouldn’t depend upon how much money you have; House Bill 3112 fixes that injustice.

The Cannabis Equity Act has several other great provisions, such as reducing the fees on Oregon Medical Marijuana Program (OMMP) patient cards and setting aside funds to invest in communities disproportionately impacted by over-policing and cannabis criminalization. Oregon has made great progress combatting Reefer Madness prohibition and the greater Drug War in recent years and HB 3112 is just another great step in the right direction. Oregonians, please contact the House Judiciary Committee and your own legislators and let them know that you support House Bill 3112 because it will improve the lives of thousands of people wrongly harmed by outdated marijuana laws. A sincere thanks to the Cannabis Equity PAC for working hard to pass this important legislation.

Kind Leaf supports efforts to improve our cannabis laws and always provides 15% off for OMMP patients.