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Oregon Passes the Equity Investment Act

News Article
A white and pink outline of Oregon state on a black background. Text reads, "Equity Investment Act."
Oregon State Legislature has taken a step toward closing the wealth gap.

On March 3, Oregon State Legislature passed the Equity Investment Act (SB 1579) to create the Economic Equity Investment Program. The program’s $15 million fund will provide grants to culturally responsive, community-based organizations supporting people facing two or more economic equity risk factors. These risk factors include race, English language proficiency, and citizenship status. The bill centers investment in BIPOC communities, rural communities, and other lower-income communities to help close the wealth gap in Oregon.

A previous version of this bill, HB 3112, aimed to provide grants funded by cannabis tax revenue to community organizations, and create legislation around cannabis licensing and record expungement. That bill did not make it through Legislature.

“While we are a long way from resolving the wealth gap and economic inequities fueled by racially-biased enforcement of cannabis prohibition, the creation of the Equity Investment Fund means the state of Oregon has taken the first step towards accountability for the deliberate, government sanctioned harms against these historically excluded communities,” said Cannabis Program Manager Dasheeda Dawson.

Portland’s 3% local cannabis tax has reinvested more than $3.3 million directly into the cities communities through the Cannabis Program’s Social Equity & Educational Development (SEED) Initiatives grant program since 2017. This revenue, when reinvested properly, gives governmental agencies the ability to support economic equity and restorative justice in communities most harmed by cannabis prohibition. But, despite Oregon legalizing adult-use cannabis in 2014, the state still lacks policies to ensure equity and justice for those communities.

SEED Initiatives and the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF) both support economic equity for underserved communities and fill some gaps in the state’s social equity provisions. Much like these programs, the Equity Investment Act is a step toward repairing the lasting social, economic, and inter-generational consequences racially biased policies and practices have on BIPOC communities.