Portland city commissioners disagree about how cannabis tax dollars should be allocated after a recent audit showed that a majority of the revenue from tax passed in 2016 went to the Portland Police Bureau.
At the Portland City Council's 2020 budget work session May 14, the Office of Community and Civic Life presented a possible solution: a new five-person committee to oversee who gets cannabis tax revenue and how it is used.
Civic Life's cannabis program supervisor Brandon Goldner said the group would meet four times or more a year, and their meetings would be open to the public, which would increase transparency around how the funds are used. Civic Life would oversee the committee and members would include "experts" in the three areas the 2016 ballot measure pledged to support: racial and social justice, drug and alcohol rehabilitation, and public safety and safe driving.
"The goal of the commission would be to request information from the bureaus that would request tax revenue so they can make informed decisions with the benefit of public comment," Goldner said, "and that the commission would hear back from those organizations about if the revenue met outcomes."
Civic Life's proposal has the support of Commissioner Chloe Eudaly. Commission Jo Ann Hardesty pointed out that currently, Mayor Ted Wheeler doesn't consult with bureaus about where the money he proposes allocating comes from.
"I'm wondering how you would have influence on the mayor's proposed budget," Hardesty asked, "prior to the mayor's proposed budget being released?"
Goldner responded that there "ought to be some process outside of the normal budget process for this specific tax revenue."
Commissioner Amanda Fritz raised concerns that the cannabis tax funds are intended to fund ongoing projects, and suggested that only a portion of the revenue be considered for one-time projects.
City commissioners have not yet decided on whether they support a cannabis tax committee.