Portland’s’ setting a standard for local governments across the country in supporting the ever-growing cannabis industry.
The marijuana industry is a lucrative one, yet plenty of setbacks hinder supply chains across the country. Cannabis cultivators and operators have pleaded with state governments in the past two years of hardships for support. Unfortunately, authorities provided marijuana businesses little aid. In Oregon, operators faced the impact of COVID-19 lockdowns, an uptick of robberies, wildfires burning crops, and 20,000 employees and companies left without support.
The City Of Portland A new program developed to protect the cannabis industry from collapsing was launched for locally based cannabis business owners, the Weed Blog. The Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund was announced as a solution to the barriers hindering growth, specifically among local businesses. In December, the City of Portland made a groundbreaking announcement when they unveiled their plans to support the cannabis industry through CERF. The Oregon city is now the first local government in the United States to bring a support system for cannabis businesses on their road to recovery.
An allocated amount of $1.33M will go towards the CERF grants after a unanimous decision among the City Council. Office of Community & Civic Life pushed for the tax revenue from the legal cannabis industry to support the program and provide economic relief for businesses plagued by similar circumstances as other businesses.
The cannabis industry, in general, doesn’t’ receive support from the federal government due to prohibition, but that also extends to receiving financial relief from banks and similar institutes. The City’s Cannabis Program began to collaborate with local cannabis-focused organizations to help bring the marijuana economy to a sustainable place to flourish in the future. Civic Life also teamed up with three community partners to help businesses and workers to receive CERF support.
Grant applications became available for the public on Feb. 1st. Licensed cannabis businesses in Portland, permitted workers, and ancillary services — like weed accessories suppliers — that have felt the brunt force of the past two years are eligible. Anyone working in cultivation, lab and extraction, retail, and any cannabis-related jobs could get support through the Civic Life-led initiative. Three local community groups overlook application review and CERF disbursements — the Oregon Cannabis Association, NuProject, and The Initiative. The Cannabis Workers Coalition, a group focused on helping the right of equitable workers, has partnered with NuProject to distribute the funds.
NuProject CEO Jeanette Ward Horton emphasized the importance of the CERF program is for the future of the cannabis industry. Describing the grants as a “smart investment,” Ward Horton said that Oregon and Portland need to “retain a strong, local cannabis economy populated with diverse-owned companies.”
“The CERF program gets the ‘what’ right – an equitable investment – and the ‘how’ – granting funds to culturally-specific organizations to build capacity in serving Portland’s historically excluded communities,” Ward Horton said in a statement.
The grant program will issue up to $25,000 for cannabis and ancillary businesses in Portland. At the same time, eligible workers who’ve’ been affected by the pandemic, vandalism, robberies, wildfire, illnesses, and other disasters can receive up to $5,000. Additionally, the City’s Cannabis Program will also disperse upwards of $200,000 in waivers for businesses that need support to remain compliant. All applicants must have valid licenses and stay in good standing with the City of Portland Cannabis Program. Other criteria under consideration for grants include majority historically disadvantaged ownership.
Individuals applying for grants must have an active and approved OLCC Marijuana Worker Permit, be part of a historically disadvantaged population, or have an annual income that “does not exceed 70% of median income” for Portland’s metro area.
Portland Commissioner Jo Ann Hardesty expressed gratitude to the Office of Community and Civic Life during the Dec. 1st hearing for “being innovative and visionary” in creating a solution to provide aid for cannabis businesses. Hardesty specifically noted that cannabis is the only business in Oregon that pays 85% of revenue in tax dollars yet cannot access traditional banking services like other operations. Hopefully, there will be federal change to that soon to better position local, state, and nationally recognized cannabis operations to thrive when federal prohibition ends.