Nationwide protests in the wake of the police killing George Floyd have reignited a public debate over police brutality in the United States. People are demanding police forces be defunded or even disbanded.
The call to defund the police is of course a financial issue but it is also about building constructive police alternatives. It is a call to reinvest in our communities and to explore new and more equitable solutions.
This is precisely what the City Council of Portland, Oregon, sought to accomplish last week, when it approved an amendment to a proposed budget for its underwhelming cannabis program. This amendment will move approximately $27 million from marijuana tax revenue funds that formally went to the City’s police department to programs focusing on restorative justice initiatives.
Though back in 2016, the City of Portland passed Recreational Marijuana Sales Measure 26-180, a measure that allocated marijuana tax dollars to substance misuse treatment, public safety and small business development, a 2019 Portland City Auditor report revealed that 46 percent of marijuana tax revenue had gone directly to the Portland Police Bureau. In other words, marijuana tax revenue was funding the very institution that has disproportionately targeted communities of color, particularly