Data compiled by the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Commission shows Portland marijuana sales at a three-year low. Under the program, city weed workers and companies are eligible to receive grants of up to $5,000 and $25,000, respectively. The fund prioritizes people of color, women, low-wage earners and other “historically disadvantaged populations.”
This program is paid for by the city’s tax on retail cannabis sales. It has already provided $1.1 million to 53 businesses and 120 individuals, according to city officials. Portland officials agreed last week to continue bankrolling an assistance program for the city’s marijuana businesses amid continued industry problems.
Portland city saw the need to assist. Ongoing weed shop robberies, plummeting sales and lingering pandemic setbacks prompted the Portland City Council to unanimously grant an additional $457,000 for the Cannabis Emergency Relief Fund launched earlier this year.
Officials with the Office of Community & Civic Life said the relief fund was created to bolster a vital but beleaguered industry that could not receive any of the millions of dollars in federal coronavirus aid distributed in Portland since 2020 because cannabis remains prohibited under federal law.
The industry has long limited traditional banking and finance options for most businesses, a challenge that became more pronounced during the pandemic. It also forces marijuana retailers to largely deal in cash, making them frequent targets of thieves, according to shop owners, city officials and police.
Portland’s cannabis relief fund began accepting grant applications in early February but had to stop after three weeks due to overwhelming demand. Cannabis employees and shop owners who receive the grant money can spend it on a wide range of expenses, including rent or mortgage payments, store repairs from break-ins and vandalism, and trauma counseling.