Tag: George Floyd

Unite Oregon Helping Lead the Call to Divest Cannabis Taxes from the Portland Police Bureau

As civil rights protests following the death of George Floyd have entered the third week of people taking to the streets, a remarkable set of reforms have already occurred. Those of us that have been involved with drug policy and criminal justice reform for awhile understand that much-needed changes can take years, if not decades, if happen even at all. To see new laws and regulations already implemented across the nation, from Louisville, Kentucky, passing the Breonna Taylor Law banning no-knock raids to New York finally making the Eric Garner Anti-Chokehold Act law, and even some action taking place at the federal level, has been heartening. But much more needs to be done.

Unite Oregon has helped take the lead on reforming police funding, including calling upon the City of Portland to divest local cannabis tax dollars from funding the Portland Police Bureau. Unite’s petition calling for action includes this provision: “Divest City of Portland Cannabix Tax funds from the PPB budget and invest them into reparations for those harmed by the War on Drugs, which disproportionately targeted BIPOC communities.”

As OPB reported Portland’s local cannabis tax hasn’t been split up as voters’ intended:

When Portland voters approved a 3% tax on recreational cannabis sales in 2016, they expected the funds would benefit marijuana business owners and individuals who were negatively affected when cannabis was illegal.

report from the Portland City Auditor reveals that’s not the case. Instead, most of the collected taxes have gone toward shortages in the city’s general fund and specifically to police and transportation programs.

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Tax revenue of $3.6 million in the 2018 fiscal year and $4.6 million in 2019 primarily went toward public safety. Small business/prohibition effects received only 16% of the revenue and drug and alcohol programs received 5%.

The Portland City Council is expected to divest the local cannabis tax from the Portland Police Bureau’s budget, but as usual in the fight for civil rights, much more needs to be done. As Oregon Governor Kate Brown has called a special legislative session to deal with police accountability and the coronavirus pandemic, we can expect the issue of cannabis dollars funding law enforcement to stay in the headlines.

UPDATE: The Portland City Council did indeed cut $15 million from the police budget, including local cannabis tax dollars.

Travel Guru Rick Steves: Cannabis Legalization is About Civil Liberties

If you’ve done a lot of traveling, you likely know about Seattle’s Rick Steves, who hosts Rick Steves’ Europe on public TV and Travel with Rick Steves on public radio and has written numerous books and columns focusing on the importance of traveling and immersing yourself in local culture. Steves has also become one of the most prominent cannabis legalization advocates with his charismatic personality, positive demeanor and mainstream appeal. Steves hasn’t been able to travel much lately, but he’s keynoting the upcoming virtual International Cannabis Business Conference and speaking out about how legalizing cannabis is a civil liberties issue and it helps end harmful laws steeped in racism.

The Northwest travel guru recently spoke to LA Weekly:

Steves isn’t trying to convince any of these folks that marijuana is the best thing around, but you should not be locking people up for enjoying it.

“That’s kind of what I’m into. I fully understand the value of medical marijuana but it’s not my crusade. I’m sure it’s really exciting to get into the Green Rush and make some money with legal cannabis but that’s not my thing either. I just recognize the racism in it. I recognize the inherent lies and good people embracing reefer madness propaganda. And I’m just a big fan of civil liberties,” Steves said.

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“I think we all need to remember it is still a struggle on the civil liberties front and we all work together we can keep the ball rolling forward to end the prohibition of marijuana.”

Rick Steves is 100% correct. While cannabis sales and tax revenue numbers make the headlines, it’s important to remember that legalization is about civil liberties and erasing a century of harmful policing practices that have disproportionately harmed people of color and the poor. As our nation deals with civil unrest sparked by the murder of George Floyd and too many unarmed people by law enforcement, it’s time to work even harder to end cannabis prohibition and the Greater Drug War from coast to coast. We have an opportunity, let’s seize it.

Featured photo credit: CarlosManzanoPHOTOs via Creative Commons license thru Wikimedia Commons.

Cannabis Dispensaries Robbed During Civil Unrest

The United States is experiencing civil unrest as protests against police brutality following the brutal death of George Floyd have spread to cities across the nation. One of the foundations of ending cannabis prohibition has been the need to end racist policing practices against communities of color, who have experienced a disproportionate number of arrests and jailings despite cannabis use being about equal among all races. Unfortunately, armed criminals have taken advantage of the unrest to rob cannabis dispensaries, with the California Bay Area hit the worst. Oregon’s Finest was also targeted.

KCBS Radio reported:

The owner of a downtown Oakland cannabis dispensary said as many as 10 people broke into his business on Friday night and made off with thousands of dollars of products.

The front entryway to the ECO Cannabis store on Telegraph Avenue was shut Friday night, equipped with an elaborate security system to keep track of any activity. Later that evening, owner Kevin Ahaesy said it was broken into. 

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He said police investigators told him two people were arrested on Saturday and that several West Oakland dispensaries were also robbed.

This from a Facebook post by my friend Debby Goldsberry, a longtime activist hero and the director of Magnolia Wellness in Oakland:

Friends. As you may know by now, Magnolia Oakland and many other dispensaries in the bay area were hit by armed robbers last night (not looters, not protesters, please be clear about that). We are a small, local, mostly woman operated company, with just this one small shop, and this will hit us hard. We were already barely hanging on with the virus and in survival mode.

They did take nearly everything, as the police did not respond for nearly an hour, giving them time to breach most of our security features. They also just totally trashed the place.

We will need help rebuilding, make no mistake about it. We are not owned by a big company, we have no nest egg, and we are still waiting to find out if our insurance will pay for any losses. We will likely have to lean heavily on this incredible community to help. We’ve already had so many inspirational calls and messages, and we thank you all. We will be back, and better than ever, make no mistake about it. It may take a week or two to get the shop rebuilt, and, then we will have to wait until the protests are calmed down, as it’s not safe to open right now.

NOW COMES THE IMPORTANT PART. This story is not about Magnolia Wellness. It’s about this nation, blistering in pain. It’s bubbled up, and can’t be stopped, no matter how much salve we put on it.

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Virtually no one defends the actions of the Minneapolis police that killed George Floyd. Ending cannabis prohibition and the greater Drug War will help decrease the number of racist law enforcement encounters, but more reforms are needed, including mandatory body cameras, the implementation of de-escalation practices, and the ability to fire problematic officers. Let’s all demand justice, that policing reforms are implemented, and that systemic racism gets addressed. And let’s remember to help small businesses rebuild and thrive.