US (OR): CERF program provides a safety net for the Portland's cannabis industry, but raises questions about transparency

This month, a group of nonprofit organizations began distributing $1.33 million in taxpayer funds to Portland cannabis businesses. 

The program and its financing, called Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund (CERF), are unconventional, for the beneficiaries—cannabis-related businesses—, for the relative speed with which they moved through City Hall, and for the lack of transparency as to where those taxpayer dollars have been distributed. 

Approved in December 2021, CERF diverts cannabis-generated tax revenue to support the economic recovery of local cannabis businesses, which endured financial troubles caused by wildfires, increased burglaries and the pandemic in the last two years, but were ineligible for federal relief dollars.

While CERF comes solely from taxpayer dollars, Portland City Council unanimously voted to distribute the money vicariously, through a group of nonprofits that include the Oregon Cannabis Association, The Initiative, and NuProject. All three declined to say how the money is being distributed. 


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