On April 11, the Portland Cannabis Policy Oversight Team (CPOT), city officials, and other cannabis industry experts unveiled the 2021 Cannabis Policy Report with the Office of Community & Civic Life. The report includes recommendations for 2022 based on key findings from an analysis of Portland’s cannabis industry in 2021. This analysis indicated lack of cannabis knowledge and competency among stakeholders, lack of data transparency and key performance indicators in the industry, significant environmental consequences, and a persistent need to serve those most impacted by cannabis prohibition. This article highlights CPOT’s recommendations for 2022 based on its findings in 2021.
To organize its recommendations, CPOT adopted an equity-centered framework developed by the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) as the basis for achieving total health equity in Portland’s cannabis industry. CHEM defines health equity as a society that optimizes human, economic, environmental, and social determinants for all people. Together, these categories comprise the CHEM Pillars of Health Equity.
The report defines human equity as guaranteed access to experiences, opportunities, and resources that optimize a person’s knowledge, skills, adaptability, introspection, empathy, enlightenment, self-regard, and self-actualization, along with physical, mental, and spiritual fitness.
a. Establish foundational cannabis competency
To further human equity in the cannabis industry, CPOT urges all stakeholders across both the public and private sectors to possess fundamental cannabis knowledge, known as having “cannabis competency.” CPOT’s Competency Subcommittee defines cannabis competency as “having a proficient understanding of the cultural, medicinal, and political history of the cannabis plant and its uses.”
The report recommends implementing a cannabis competency educational module created by the Competency Subcommittee. The module teaches the history of cannabis prohibition, introduces basic cannabis science, and reviews Oregon drug legalization and decriminalization laws. The module must be digitized and made available synchronously as a pilot module. Once piloted successfully with feedback, CPOT recommends integrating the module into the City’s Learning Management System and hiring a cannabis competent trainer to cover more advanced training.
b. Fund coding STEM program for students
In addition to general cannabis knowledge, the report recommends establishing an online coding-focused STEM education program for 500 Portland students. The report states that coding furthers human equity by teaching relevant, transferrable technical skills that better prepare students for employment in a high-tech economy. Additionally, because the program is online, it will be accessible to students regardless of pandemic restrictions.
The report specifically recommends partnering with the Reimagine Portland project, a policy-reform campaign, to co-create a $1 million fund to launch the STEM program. Cannabis tax revenue would provide the funding, with a portion dedicated to funding an event that would also allow private entities to match donations.
The report defines economic equity as assurance of 1) economic reciprocity, 2) access to opportunities that grow resources, such as income, savings, assets, and capital, and 3) possessing personal and collective agency over the flow of economic resources through a household or community. Economic equity in cannabis, a highly taxed commodity, involves scrutinizing the way cannabis tax revenue is distributed, for what purpose, and to whose benefit.
a. Establish a data analyst role
To achieve economic equity in Portland’s cannabis industry, CPOT recommends establishing a Research and Data Analyst position in the City’s Cannabis Program to conduct market research and data analysis. The position would synthesize data for all cannabis programs, including the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund, Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives, and CPOT projects, and would provide data-driven recommendations to advise leadership on cannabis economic development programs. A social equity sub-recommendation urges cannabis licensing revenue to fund the position’s salary.
b. Conduct an industry viability assessment
Using the data and results obtained from the new role, CPOT next recommends contracting with an independent firm to conduct an economic viability assessment of Portland’s cannabis market, including policies pertaining to cannabis licensing. The assessment would gauge whether Portland’s industry creates successful and sustainable cannabis businesses, how to support small businesses based on data, and whether current licensing and compliance policies encourage a strong, vibrant market. A sub-recommendation proposes that cannabis licensing revenue fund the assessment, estimated to cost around $50,000.
The report defines environmental equity as guaranteed access to and maintenance of 1) clean air, water, land, and soil, 2) clean, natural, and safe outdoor spaces, 3) clean and safe indoor
spaces, and 4) clean, safe, and consistent housing options. Being an agricultural industry, cannabis cultivation directly implicates environmental concerns for energy waste, water use, waste management, and material extraction. Additionally, wildfires pose a consistent threat to cannabis cultivation and subsequent players in the supply chain.
a. Establish environmental policy agenda
To work toward environmental equity, CPOT recommends collaborating with a liaison from the Bureau of Planning & Sustainability to spearhead a research and policy agenda that advances green building, energy efficiency, solar and renewable energy, waste prevention, composting, and recycling. CPOT also calls for cannabis licensing revenue to fund salaries for necessary program staff to support these efforts, including establishing an Environmental & Sustainability sub-committee.
b. Implement fee reduction and recycling programs
CPOT also recommends offering a fee reduction program to cannabis businesses who commit to substantive sustainable production and waste management policies. The report indicates this would cost the city around $150,000 in cannabis licensing revenue between 2022-2023, however, CPOT notes that the lost revenue is worth facilitating a more environmentally and financially sustainable market. Additionally, the report recommends researching, developing, and implementing a formal recycling program, including a re-sale strategy to offset the program’s cost.
Social equity, as defined by the report, requires 1) policies and regulations that are written to eliminate discriminatory and systemic barriers to equity for historically excluded groups, 2) policies and regulations that create new pathways that ensure equity for these groups, and 3) policies and regulations that are written equitably for the benefit of all people.
a. Launch city expungement program
Over 350,000 Oregon residents still have non-violent cannabis criminal records, despite state recreational legalization nearing its 7th anniversary. With no state-wide framework in place for automatic expungement and a prohibitively costly private expungement process, CPOT recommends funding and launching Portland’s own city-led expungement program. The program would provide automatic legal processes and/or cover 100% of costs for Portlanders seeking to expunge non-violent cannabis convictions from their criminal records. The report anticipates utilizing $500,000 of city tax revenue, including the general fund and 3% cannabis tax revenue, to launch the program.
b. Establish Portland Cannabis Research Fund (PCRF)
CPOT also recommends establishing a research program to study and report on the cannabis industry’s impact on ongoing social, economic, environmental, and human considerations. The research program would also examine how previous criminalization, and the implementation of cannabis policies under that regime, disproportionately harms historically excluded communities. $250,000 from cannabis tax revenue would fund the program’s establishment and launch.
In conclusion, the 2021 Cannabis Policy Report provides 8 clear recommendations to achieve greater human, economic, environmental, and social equity in Portland’s cannabis industry. Stay tuned for more updates on all issues related to cannabis, hemp, CBD, and psilocybin.
You can contact Allison Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 503-488-5424.