Portland leaders debate distribution of cannabis revenue

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PORTLAND — There’s a bright spot in Portland’s annual budget: higher-than-anticipated revenue from cannabis taxes.

But three years after voters approved the 3 percent tax, the city council is still trying to agree on how to spend it.

The ballot initiative gave the city council authority to spend cannabis tax money on a few broadly defined priorities: drug and alcohol education and treatment; public safety and street safety including protecting the public from unsafe drivers; and support for small businesses and economic opportunity for communities impacted by cannabis prohibition.

Last year, the city council allocated the biggest chunk of ongoing revenue, $2.15 million, to the Portland Police Bureau’s traffic division — a move that’s sparked controversy.

As a report from the city auditor recently pointed out, that new funding didn’t put more traffic cops on the street. Instead, the council cut its general fund support for the traffic division and substituted the cannabis money.

The city’s general fund is the repository for most taxes, licensing fees and unrestricted revenue that funds core services

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