In Crime-Ridden Portland, Weed Industry Gets Twice as Much Funding as New Cops

Liberal city to fund weed grants to rectify 'past racially-biased cannabis policies'

Gov. Ted Wheeler (D.) / Getty Images
June 7, 2023

As crime and homelessness strains Portland, Oregon, the city's liberal mayor has proposed spending more than $10 million on marijuana-related initiatives in the upcoming year, nearly double the amount requested to hire new police officers.

Portland mayor Ted Wheeler (D.) made a point to stress his intention to increase investments in public safety, announcing in early May that he aimed to spend $5.3 million to hire 43 new police officers to better address rising vehicle and retail thefts. What the mayor didn’t publicly stress, however, is that the city will be spending almost twice as much on various marijuana initiatives in the city.

Wheeler's budget includes a proposal to put $3 million behind an "ongoing" Cannabis Fund and another $7 million behind a "one-time Cannabis Fund." Of the more than $10 million dedicated to marijuana programs, $2.3 million is earmarked for funding so-called Social Equity and Education Development grants, which disburse funds to rectify "past racially-biased cannabis policies and disparate cannabis-related arrests" and support "Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) and women led/owned small business initiatives."

The high priority on weed spending comes as Portland deals with a sky-high number of homeless residents, drug overdoses, and violent crime. Over the last three years, for example, shootings tripled, homicides rose to a record-high, and the number of homeless people jumped by 20 percent, prompting criticism from local officials and residents.

"You don't have to watch Fox News to look around Portland and say, 'This is not cool,'" city commissioner Mingus Mapps, a Democrat, told the Los Angeles Times in February.

Portland has among the fewest police officers per capita of all major American cities, an issue that research shows leads to more crime. A 2016 Obama administration report, for example, found that "police reduce crime on average." A 10 percent increase in police hiring, the report says, prompts a "crime decrease of approximately 3 to 10 percent."

The mayor’s office told the Washington Free Beacon that the budget allocated more money for marijuana initiatives than officers only because the $10 million spent on weed was generated through the city’s recreational cannabis tax, which has restrictions regarding how it can be spent. But Portland Ballot Measure 26-180, which the mayor’s office referenced, does allow city cannabis tax funds to go toward "public safety investments, such as police DUII training and enforcement."

In the past, Portland's "social equity" weed grants have gone toward expunging criminal records and subsidizing marijuana permits, rent, fees, and other costs for "qualified BIPOC candidates." In addition to funding those grants, a large portion of the proposed marijuana money—roughly $7 million—is slated to go to Reimagine Oregon, a nonprofit that says "systemic racism is a virus that has plagued America from its very first days."

"In—quite literally—every single aspect of American society, Black lives are shown that they don’t matter," the group's website states. The city says it's funding Remagine Oregon so the group can support "communities disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition."

Issues related to marijuana aren’t the only liberal priorities set to receive cash injections from Portland’s treasury.

Portland wants to spend $50,000 on a "Black Reparations Study" to "examine what reparations could bring harmed communities into parity." A similar inquiry in San Francisco found that the city should pay every eligible African American $5 million, which experts estimate would cost about $175 billion.

The city also allocated $115,200 to hold an "equity summit" for the LGBTQIA+ community, provide community engagement, and train city staff. "Site assessment for My People’s Market," another initiative, is set to get $137,000 "to fund a site relocation analysis" for "a marketplace aimed at advancing opportunities for BIPOC entrepreneurs."

Additionally, the city is prepared to shell out $147,339 for a diversity program aimed at "BIPOC, immigrant, and refugee communities" as well as up to $109,512 for a government bureaucrat tasked with "broadening inclusion and diversity" in city government.