Oregon’s Equity Investment Act (HB 3112) did not pass this session. The Act’s top priority was utilizing growing cannabis tax revenue to fund economic justice and self-determination for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx Oregonians.
The Equity Investment Act followed legislation in other U.S. states where legal cannabis taxes are invested into Black and brown communities disproportionately economically devastated by the war on drugs. The bill set aside nearly $50M per year and growing to fund programs that invest in homeownership, job training and placement, and business funding and support across every industry for Black, Indigenous, and Latinx communities.
HB 3112 also addressed other equity gaps in Oregon, including equitable, automatic expungement for cannabis possession crimes no longer illegal and cannabis equity licenses to allow the groups least likely to own a business the opportunity to create generational wealth from Oregon’s fastest growing industry.
The collective community’s outcry to correct criminal justice system ills must include economic justice. We felt HB 3112 was urgent to pass because Black, Indigenous and Latinx Oregonians, already at the economic margins, are disparately suffering the economic and health impact of the pandemic.
We don’t have a clear reason why HB 3112 did not move forward this session. We are clear HB 3112 died in Joint Ways and Means without reaching the Ways and Means Committee for a hearing. HB 3112 had 13 House and Senate Democrats as bill champions. Hundreds of letters of community support came in. Thousands signed the petition. HB 3112 died on a desk. This is not what democracy looks like.
In July 2020, the workgroup formed in response to Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and other very visible instances of police violence which raised the collective consciousness on the negative, disparate impact of the criminal justice system on Black lives. This workgroup of average folks channeled our response into collective community political action.
For a year, a 100% volunteer coalition met multiple times a week — a mix of people impacted by the war on drugs and people who care deeply about addressing criminal injustice. We began with three legislative champions, Rep. Akasha Lawrence Spence, Rep. Julie Fahey and Sen. Lew Frederick. The group grew to 80+ and formed a political action committee to carry the work forward. We met with scores of legislators and advocacy organizations achieving critical policy wins.
The Cannabis Equity PAC will continue lobbying for passage of an economic justice bill, creating a cannabis equity license program, and automatic expungement for cannabis possession crimes. With your support, we’ll continue to be what community looks like. Next session, we call Oregon legislators to a higher set of values. We certainly have higher ideals for what democracy looks like.