Portland, Oregon will allocate $1.33 million in relief funding to local cannabis businesses that have been hit hard by wildfires, robberies, or the pandemic.
The Portland City Council approved a new measure last week that sets up grants for cannabis industry stakeholders that have suffered any of these setbacks. Businesses will be eligible for grants of up to $25,000, and individuals can apply for grants of up to $5,000. These grants will be fully funded by the city’s 3-percent municipal tax on adult-use weed sales.
Recipients will be allowed to use these funds to repair damage from vandalism or robberies, or to make rent, mortgage, utilities, payroll, or insurance payments. Companies can also purchase personal protective equipment or pay for additional security measures, but cannot use the funds to buy firearms or hire armed guards.
The City Council agreed to approve the measure after Portland Cannabis Licensing and Policy Coordinator Christina Coursey made a presentation detailing the situation's urgency. Coursey told the council that although Portland received $114 million in federal CARES Act grants, cannabis businesses couldn't receive a single dime of that funding, since "marijuana" is still illegal under federal law.
The federal prohibition of cannabis has also created another serious problem for the weed industry by preventing banks or other financial institutions from dealing with marijuana businesses. For this reason, cannabis stores are forced to operate on a cash-only basis, and the large amount of cash at these businesses makes them prime targets for robberies. Last year, Portland cops busted a burglary ring that specifically targeted weed businesses in Washington state and Oregon, but robberies still remain a serious issue in the city.
On top of these other issues, Oregon's weed industry has also had to deal with climate change. The West Coast was hit by a major drought this year, making it increasingly difficult and expensive for farmers to water their crops. The drought also sparked some of the worst wildfires Oregon has ever seen, and several legal weed farmers saw their year's harvest go up in smoke. Black market weed grows have made matters worse by stealing groundwater to irrigate their illicit crops, making water resources even more scarce.
Cannabis businesses that suffered from any of these issues will be able to receive these one-time grants between February and June 2022. To be eligible for a grant, recipients must have a valid cannabis license, be in good standing with the state, and either be based in Portland or located elsewhere in Oregon but doing business in the city.
Portland will enlist three local organizations to help distribute the funds, and priority access will be given to businesses located in historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Coursey estimated that around 75 percent of the city’s 347 licensed cannabis businesses will be eligible to receive these grants.
Further down the West Coast, San Francisco is also taking steps to help its embattled weed industry. The Bay Area's legal weed industry has also been hit by a wave of robberies, but unlike Oregon, local cops are doing absolutely nothing to stop it. As a stopgap measure, San Francisco's legislative board passed a new ordinance that suspends municipal cannabis taxes until the end of 2023.