A positive trend in the national marijuana movement is spending on building communities affected by the war on drugs. As a result, nonprofits have begun to profit from the sale of government marijuana.
In recent years, the state of California has allocated pot sales funds to provide grants to community organizations. Almost $ 100 million has already been paid out, and the amount is expected to rise to $ 175 million in May.
An example of an organization that is transforming the lives of people who have passed through the criminal justice system is “Fathers and Families of San Joaquin”. This small group received a $ 1 million grant in 2019 to train former incarcerated citizens as drug abuse counselors, conduct youth workshops, and serve as domestic and child abuse emergency teams.
An Associated Press (AP) article said: “So many issues the organization is addressing in and around Stockton, California can be traced back to the war on drugs,” said Samuel Nuñez, executive director of the group. He remembers how cops knocked down his front door as a child – something he says was common in his neighborhood – and his mother sat on the floor in shock.
“They have been closely monitoring our communities,” says Nuñez. “You traumatized us.”
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California isn’t the only state that works in this corner. Alaska and Illinois also use marijuana revenues to support marginalized communities, and New York State has passed a law setting 40% of tax revenues to help communities suffering from the drug war. Since weeds are legalized nationwide, other states can adopt this platform. Most recently, voters approved guidelines to encourage marijuana use in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota.
The AP wrote, “The system California put in place was particularly beneficial for smaller groups closest to these communities,” says Bonnie Midura, senior program manager at California Endowment, a foundation that supported efforts to advance marijuana grants . Government agencies often have strict application requirements for nonprofits that they can exclude from the process. “
The possibility of high grants in US dollars will have a big impact on the state.
Interviewed a Sierra Health Foundation official, The Chronicle of Philanthropy stated, “I have had a number of conversations with these organizations where they told us that these are the largest grants they have ever received,” says Matt Cervantes who manages part of the California effort. “These are well-known advocacy organizations from across the state with a long history in the philanthropic sector. But a $ 1 million grant over a three-year period can change the game radically. “
Another example of a company funded through the California state program is Painted Brain. As a newer nonprofit in the LA area, they received $ 900,000 over a three-year grant period. Her mission is to create lasting community-based solutions to mental health problems and the effects of social injustice through the arts, advocacy and entrepreneurship. They offer art programs, employment agencies, and even legal advice for people with mental health problems. Funding has helped the organization not only improve services but also look to the future.
“It provides a predictability and security for our business that enables us to actually think bigger and think about what we really want to do,” said Dave Leon, executive director of the company, in an interview with the Chronicle of Philanthropy.
The California program aims to fund small organizations run by people of color, focusing on citizens previously incarcerated, communities torn by the drug war, and drug prevention programs. Of the clients served by programs that have received grants, approximately 45% are Latino and 35% are Black.
While the benefits seem obvious, there are some nonprofits and fellows who do not endorse the idea of using funds raised from drug use. Especially if part of their mission is to reduce the number of drug abusers.
In Alaska, the state government allocates 12.5% of its marijuana sales to fund after-school prevention programs. Thomas Azzarella, director of the Alaska Afterschool Network, oversees the distribution of the money, which amounted to $ 1.25 million in 2019, to seven organizations. He has mixed feelings about the process.
“We are not for or against the industry. We realize that when legalization takes place, we need to focus on prevention, ”Azzarella said in an interview with the Chronicle of Philanthropy. “The new industry comes with additional risks and dangers. In this way we ensure that the industry is a good partner. “
Organizations in California take a similar view. It is important that stakeholders understand that they are not relying on substance abuse and then re-investing in preventing something that continues to fund programs.
California Endowment’s Midura stated that this was a matter of perspective. In an interview, she said to the AP, “That’s where these dollars come in. They belong to the people of California, ”she says. “How can it be invested in the most disproportionately affected communities in California?”
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