‘Emerald New Deal’ Cannabis Tax Ballot Measure Faces Skepticism
A plan to direct cannabis tax revenues to programs aimed at repairing the damage caused by the War on Drugs faced fresh criticism at the Oakland City Council meeting Tuesday. A final vote on the proposal has been pushed back to July 11.
Called the “Emerald New Deal” by its supporters, the measure would redirect all of Oakland’s cannabis business tax revenue, about $7 million a year, out of Oakland’s general fund and put it into a new fund. restricted which would be dedicated to the payment of services. benefiting communities hurt by decades of tough drug law enforcement. The measure would fund services such as mental health, rehabilitation services, housing support and economic development. It would also increase financial support for cannabis stock companies, which are those owned by Oakland residents who can demonstrate that they belong to a community that has been harmed by the war on drugs. A new oversight commission would manage these funds and make sure they are not misused.
But not everyone thinks the Emerald New Deal is the best way for Oakland to help communities affected by the war on drugs. Doubters, including several council members, have pointed out in previous council meetings that Oakland already funds many of the programs mentioned in the Emerald New Deal legislation. Some also oppose restricting the city’s use of cannabis tax revenues. The city is also already supporting joint-stock companies through preferential access to cannabis business licenses, loans and grants, access to industrial space, and more.
Some still think it takes more to overcome decades of evil. Bryce Savoy, co-owner of family business Euphorium, said he supports the Emerald New Deal plan because business owners need more financial support. “We’re very lucky to have loyal customers who continue to support us no matter what, but it’s getting harder and harder to operate,” Savoy said.
One of the biggest challenges that Oakland stock business owners face is generating enough revenue to pay the cannabis tax while making a profit. According to the city’s cannabis tax rate chart for 2022, corporations of all types that earn less than $1.2 million pay a gross receipts tax of 0.12%.
Savoy says the city has been helpful in providing emergency grants to cannabis businesses that were robbed in 2020, though burglaries continue to be a problem. According to Savoy, family-owned cannabis businesses can barely cover the cost of taxes and keep their establishments safe. “It’s hard enough to run a stock business, but then you have bigger companies that have the capital and you have to compete with them.”
The Emerald New Deal has received approval from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the city council responsible for making recommendations to council on matters relating to the cannabis industry. District 6 council member Loren Taylor introduced the ballot measure and is one of its key supporters. Council members Treva Reid and Noel Gallo, who also represent East Oakland districts, are listed as co-sponsors of the measure.
Emerald New Deal organizers Gamila Abdehalim and Charles Reed made a presentation at Tuesday’s council meeting to try to convince the rest of the council to put the measure on the ballot.
“The city just announced that racism is a public health crisis, and the Emerald New Deal represents an opportunity to address the harms of that crisis,” Reed told the council.
“We have to start somewhere, and it’s a good start here to show that we’re committed to supporting the black community and the Latino community that have been impacted by the war on drugs,” council member Taylor said.
“We talk a lot about race and equity, but we’ve been paying the price for that for years,” council member Gallo said. “Let’s give back to our neighborhoods and the community.
North Oakland council member Dan Kalb said he and others are concerned about moving millions of dollars from the general fund to a separate fund. He suggested the possibility of spending a smaller portion of cannabis tax revenue instead of all of it.
West Oakland council member Carroll Fife expressed skepticism about the Emerald New Deal organizer’s publicity tactics. Fife alleged that there have been instances where flyers were handed out to West Oakland residents with logos of local nonprofits such as the Urban Peace Movement. She said these organizations contacted her saying they did not support the measure. Fife said she remains skeptical that the Emerald New Deal is the best plan to help communities affected by the war on drugs.
“I don’t believe this is the right way to go, but I’m ready to continue this discussion next week,” she said.
Chaney Turner, commissioner of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission and founder of Beyond Equity, said in an interview with The Oaklandside that growing up in East Oakland, she experienced the war on drugs firsthand. “My mother was a drug addict, as were other members of my family. I witnessed searches in my neighborhood and in my house being broken into by the police,” Turner said. a long-term financial investment needs to be made to help rebuild black and brown neighborhoods in Oakland, they believe the Emerald New Deal isn’t clear enough on how it plans to distribute the funds and what organizations will be hired to implement these services.
“The vote must be no. There needs to be a return to the drawing board, there needs to be an inclusion of other organizations that work directly with affected communities that have been harmed by the war on drugs,” Turner said.
Others, like Zach Goldman, policy director of IFPTE Local 21, a union that represents city workers, pointed out during a public comment that withdrawing millions of dollars in cannabis-related tax revenue would have a negative impact on city services that depend on funding from the city budget. “The Emerald New Deal does not provide any new funding for municipal services and does not provide any new alternatives to replace that funding,” Goldman said.
Other residents who called into the meeting to share their thoughts expressed support for the proposed ballot measure.
“Redirecting these funds will have a huge impact on black and brown communities [in a positive way]so please put this measure on the ballot in November,” Russel Arelis said at the meeting.
“Marijuana may be legal now, but people are still reeling from years of racist policies that hurt black and brown communities,” Lina Salam said at the meeting.
The board voted to hold another discussion and vote on the proposal on Monday, July 11.