Massachusetts bill looking to use marijuana sales to fund police finds resistance

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Legislators hoping to find extra money for law enforcement are running into a little trouble

Perhaps this is not the best time to promote a cannabis bill that would give extra funding to police departments after the havoc the country went through following George Floyd’s death while being arrested by police. Cannabis law enforcement has long been criticized for being unfair toward minorities and several protests across the country have pushed for the police forces to have less funding. However, a new large-scale policing reform bill proposed by a Massachusetts House committee is seeking the opposite, as it aims to fund law enforcement’s training programs, and this decision was not well-received by a few regulators.

After the Senate approved the law enforcement legislation last week, the House Ways and Means Committee added a measure that was released on Sunday that suggested an amendment to fund police training with money coming from marijuana sales. According to what was said in the panel’s 93-page proposal, there is a provision indicating that the Police Training Fund will get some support from “funds transferred from the Marijuana Regulation Fund.”

The state’s cannabis laws already state that tax revenue obtained from marijuana can be used for “municipal police training.” Therefore, advocates are beyond frustrated to see the lawmakers prioritizing a reform to fund law enforcement. These funds should be used to support restorative justice programs for communities most impacted by the drug war, and at least one of the state’s cannabis regulators is questioning whether that is a good use of those funds.

“Where are the funds for communities of color promised in this law?” Shaleen Title, who serves as a commissioner on the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), told Marijuana Moment. “California has awarded $40 million in cannabis equity grant funding in the past year. Illinois is investing a full 25 percent of its cannabis tax revenue into grants for disproportionately harmed communities,” she added. “I invite Massachusetts legislators to collaborate with regulators and communities to ensure funding flows as promised under our law.”