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Oregon Lawmaker Introduces Social Equity Cannabis Bill

From by Addison Herron-Wheeler February 4 2021

Oregon has traditionally been a socially conscious state, as well as one of the first states to allow legal cannabis. Now, House Bill 3112, or the Oregon Cannabis Equity Act, has been introduced into the legislature. This bill would make a point of ensuring that racial equity is considered when moving forward in the already-legal industry. 

The new bill was initially introduced by Akasha Lawrence Spencer and included numerous cannabis companies, the NuLeaf Project, the Oregon Cannabis Association, the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association, the City of Portland, Urban League, and student advocates from the legal program at Willamette University.

“We came together with a common purpose—to undo and repair some of the harm caused by cannabis criminalization on Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities in Oregon,” said Spencer according to a press release. “This legislation uses cannabis tax revenue to invest in Oregonians who have been unjustly targeted for decades by law enforcement, in an effort to repair some of the generational harm done to their communities.”

NuLeaf Project, one of the main groups involved with the new push, gets funding from the City of Portland via donations and taxes in order to help startups and individuals of color looking to break into, or improve their standing in, the industry.

“We’ve seen the harm to far too many families to not address this issue. Cannabis convictions bring challenges that ripple through families and cause hardship for the children of children whose parents were disproportionately arrested. The loss of jobs, education grants, housing and more that can all stem from a minor cannabis conviction have impacted communities of color for generations. Today Oregon has the chance to undo some of that harm,” said Jeanette Ward-Horton, executive director of the NuLeaf Project.

How The Bill Would Work

If passed, this bill would make sure that Black, Indigenous, and Latinx people receive investment for their businesses, and it would help people of color expunge past cannabis convictions that happened before legalization. As of now, less than 200 of the 28,000 eligible Oregon residents have had their records expunged. 

The bill would also develop equity licenses for companies that are owned by people of color, including reduced fees and modified requirements for those people. Small business owners who qualify would be able to get financial assistance for the licensing process.

“Less than 200 out of 28,000 Oregonians eligible for expungement were able to successfully complete the process in the past two years. We need to do better,” said Chief Sponsor and State Representative Ricki Ruiz. “This bill provides us the path and the funding we need to efficiently remove previous cannabis crimes from people’s records and provide them the opportunity to repair their lives from the harm caused by cannabis criminalization. It is a critical step toward restoring the health of these individuals and the communities where they reside.”

Additionally, the Oregon Cannabis Association, the Oregon Industry Progress Association, and the Oregon Retailers of Cannabis Association all support this legislation. If it passes, things will be looking bright for minority business owners in Oregon cannabis.

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