The Prince George’s County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to create a cannabis reinvestment and restoration board in an effort to support people disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
The Cannabis Reinvestment and Restoration Board established in CB-088 will manage the allocation of funds for community reinvestment and repair related to cannabis in the county.
The board will serve as the foundation of the Community Reinvestment and Repair Special Revenue Fund in the county, which will receive funding from the state of Maryland’s Community Reinvestment and Repair Fund. Communities that saw the most significant impacts from disproportionate enforcement of cannabis prohibition before July 1, 2022 will receive money from the fund.
It’s important for Prince George’s County to include community members who have been negatively impacted by cannabis prohibition in conversations about cannabis reform, District 7 council member Krystal Oriadha said at a Sept. 28 government operations and fiscal policy committee meeting about the bill.
“The revenue that we’re going to see is not just building wealth for industry, but it’s also building a thriving community,” Oriadha, the bill’s lead sponsor, said.
Yanet Amanuel, the public policy director at the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland, said at the meeting Tuesday that the bill can support organizations in the county that haven’t previously had access to public funds.
“We see CB 88 as an essential step towards building a stronger network of Black-led organizations and institutions in the county, which will further empower the community,” Amanuel said.
The funding from the program does not expire from fiscal year to fiscal year.
Since the war on drugs started in the 1970s, Black individuals have been disproportionately targeted and arrested for drug possession, according to the ACLU of Maryland.
Black residents made up about 64 percent of the population in Prince George’s County in 2022, according to U.S. Census data.
But from 2018 to 2019, 90 percent of the nearly 3,000 people charged with possession of marijuana exceeding 10 grams in Prince George’s County were Black, according to a 2021 report from ACLU of Maryland.
The county legislation comes after several efforts by Maryland Gov. Wes Moore’s administration to prioritize social equity in the state’s cannabis market. After Maryland residents voted to legalize adult cannabis use in June via a ballot referendum in the November 2022 election, Moore signed an executive order creating a social equity office and a state community reinvestment and repair fund.
Prince George’s County residents also shared support for the bill Tuesday.
Dayvon Love, the policy director at Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, an organization focused on advancing Black communities’ public policy interests, said the new county legislation allows flexibility and should be celebrated.
“In this piece of legislation it allows the flexibility for this board to be able to think of creative ways to get access to resources to folks that traditionally would not have access to it,” Love said. “That’s something to be particularly proud of.”
The council also unanimously voted Tuesday to ban real estate appraisers in the county from considering race, ethnicity, religion and other demographic factors in providing appraisals.