California Grant Program Uses Marijuana Tax Revenue To Help People Harmed By War On Drugs
California announced this week that grant applications are now available to promote public health and economic justice for communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs. And those grants are being funded by legal marijuana tax revenue.
The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development said the California Community Reinvestment Grants (CalCRG) program is meant to give eligible health departments and community-based nonprofit organizations resources to support “job placement, mental health treatment, substance use disorder treatment, system navigation services, legal services to address barriers to reentry, and linkages to medical care for communities disproportionately affected by past federal and state drug policies, also known as the War on Drugs (WoD).”
“The mission of the CalCRG program is to advance health, wellness, and economic justice for populations and communities harmed by the WoD,” the solicitation says.
The state also described the guiding principles of the grant program:
-Responsive to and focused on populations and communities disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
-Grounded in science and data, while being receptive to emerging and innovative approaches.
-Advancing whole person, trauma-informed care.
-Accountable to taxpayers and stakeholders.
Marijuana excise and cultivation taxes are funding the program. For the 2020-2021 fiscal year, $30 million in grants will be made available. That will increase to $40 million for 2021-2022 and then $50 million for 2022-2023. It will remain at $50 million for subsequent years. Last year, the program made its first round of awards, amounting to $9.6 million in support for 69 separate grantees.
The online portal to submit an application for this year’s grant round will open September 28 and close November 2.
The drug war “has disproportionately impacted communities of color, particularly low income African American/Black and Latino/Hispanic populations,” the solicitation says, detailing how people use and sell cannabis at similar rates across racial lines but that “African American/Black and Latino/Hispanic individuals have historically been arrested more frequently for marijuana violations.”
“Harsh federal and state drug policies enacted during the WoD led to the mass incarceration of people of color, decreased access to social services, loss of educational attainment due to diminished federal financial aid eligibility, prohibitions on the use of public housing and other public assistance, and the separation of families,” the document says. “Individuals from populations and communities in California that were disproportionately impacted by the WoD represent the CalCRG program priority populations. The CalCRG program aims to be a resource to address and repair the multi-generational impacts of the WoD.”
The same office behind this grant program also announced in April that it would be providing $30 million in funding for cannabis entrepreneurs from communities disproportionately impacted by the drug war.
As more states legalize cannabis, there’s been increased interest in ensuring that tax revenue from the market helps promote social equity for people from communities targeted by prohibition’s enforcement.
In May, for example, Illinois announced that it was distributing $31.5 million in restorative justice grants funded by marijuana taxes. The funds are designated for community assessment and planning initiatives as well as service delivery for those in economically distressed areas.
Meanwhile, local jurisdictions are also considering ways to revise where cannabis tax dollars should go.
A new budget proposal released in King County, Washington this week would shift $4.6 million in cannabis tax revenue away from the sheriff’s department and instead use the funds to vacate prior convictions for marijuana, among other programs.
In June, the Portland City Council approved an amendment to a proposed budget that would divest cannabis funds from the city’s police department.
Photo courtesy of Brian Shamblen.