Oakland Cannabis Proposal to Fund Social Services Deadlocks in Council


Public Safety Committee officials on Tuesday deadlocked on a proposal by council members Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo and Larry Reid that would require all pot businesses in Oakland to share their earnings with the city to help fund its social services. 


The plan would make cannabis businesses and those who lease their property in Oakland give 25 percent of their profit to the city in order to receive operation permits.


It would also require at least one seat on the board of directors for the Commercial Cannabis Activity, and would restrict permits to people who have lived in Oakland for at least five years.


Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo and Larry Reid
Desley Brooks, Noel Gallo and Larry Reid


Money generated from the plan would go towards a Cannabis Equity Fund, which would support three job-training programs, loans, community beautification and the establishment of a council district activities fund.


Supporters like local activist Carroll Fife said the proposal is necessary to address racial disparities in the bourgeoning pot business, which is expected to rake in more than $7 billion by the end of this year.


“We have an opportunity to fix what is wrong,” Fife said on Tuesday. “Let’s level the playing field and give more people opportunities to have the middle class existence that we have been robbed of.”


“The vast majority of people who are making money off this industry are white males, and it has not been an industry that has by and large included a majority of the population,” Brooks said.


On Tuesday, Brooks also emphasized how the plan would support Oakland’s historic Equity Permit Program, which City Council passed in May to provide unique support to those hardest hit by the Drug War.


Opponents – which include Terryn Buxton, who represents Brooks’ district for Oakland’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission – said the plan would drive the cannabis business out of Oakland.


In addition, the deadlocked proposal presented on Tuesday contained amendments from a previous version of the plan, which had received criticism from city and state officials for possibly not complying with state and federal regulations.


“Even if (the plan) is legal, which it’s probably not, it’s just ridiculous to the point where it’s not going to happen,” Councilmember Dan Kalb said on Tuesday. “What’s going to happen is that people are going to leave.”


But now that the plan is back to the drawing board, “everything is up for negotiations” according to Brooks.


And although the Committee took no official action on Tuesday, she said she’s still pleased with the outcome. “We changed the conversation… people are finally talking about funds that need to be set up to assist equity in business. For me, it was a victory.”


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