Oakland’s Emerald New Deal DEBATE: Cannabis Regulatory Commission Chair Chaney Turner opposes the deal

Chaney-Turner-speaks-510-Day-051022-at-Lake-Merritt-by-Carla-Hernandez-Ramirez, Oakland’s Emerald New Deal DEBATE: Cannabis Regulatory Commission Chair Chaney Turner opposes the deal, Local News & Views
Chaney Turner of the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission addresses the crowd at Lake Merritt on 510 Day, Tuesday, May 10. – Photo: Carla Hernández Ramírez

by Minister of Information JR Valrey, SF Bay View Oakland Bureau

The Emerald New Deal is a piece of legislation that is coming up for a vote by the Oakland City Council on Monday. The legislation is slated to give $160 million from the legal sale of cannabis to services that directly serve victims of the “war on drugs” and their families. 

On the surface, everything looks progressive, but the chair of the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission, Chaney Turner, believes otherwise, so I invited her to share her ideas on the issue so that our readers would be able to see both sides of the conversation. 

This article is accompanied by one by Oakland City Councilman Loren Taylor, who is a proponent of the Emerald New Deal. Check out the ideas of Chaney Turner. 

JR Valrey: Can you talk about how long you have been on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission? What does the Cannabis Regulatory Commission do? 

Chaney Turner: I’m an East Oakland native and the founder of Beyond Equity, a newly evolving cannabis educational and advocacy organization that focuses on local and statewide cannabis policy. I’m also the chair of the Oakland Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The function of the Commission is to advise Council on policy, regulation, taxation and issues regarding the lowest law enforcement policy for private adult cannabis offenses. I’ve served on the commission for two and a half years. My role on the commission is volunteer based. I do this as a service to my city. 

JR Valrey: What have been the highlights of your work with the Cannabis Equity Board? Some of the highlights have been advocating for lower taxes. 

Chaney Turner: In 2019, we advocated for lower taxes for social equity and small cannabis businesses that make less than $500,000 or less from 10% to 0.12%. Although that’s not a huge difference, it allowed for some relief. 

There’s a lot of misinformation when it comes to cannabis. Most believe that ALL cannabis businesses are making lots of money when in fact that isn’t true when it comes to Black and Brown equity operators who don’t come from wealth. 

JR Valrey: What is the Emerald New Deal? How will it affect the Black community? 

Chaney Turner: The Emerald New Deal is a proposal that would dedicate 100% of cannabis tax revenue to Oakland communities that were harmed by the war on drugs. Currently there’s $8 million of tax revenue that they would use for their efforts. 

While it may sound like a good initiative in theory, once you dive into the details, it isn’t good policy. I want to be clear that I believe in community reinvestment. I’m an East Oakland native 80s baby who was directly impacted by the war on drugs. The work I do is based in equity, with Black communities being at the center of that work. 

The tax dollars generated from cannabis sales need to go back into our social equity program that supports drug war survivors to enter the cannabis space. If we do not support these businesses, we’ll see an influx of non-Black-and-Brown-owned businesses taking over. 

JR Valrey: What in the fine print of this legislation is the community missing? Why are you opposed to it? 

Chaney Turner: The language is vague and doesn’t address actual drug war issues. Drug war enforcement dollars didn’t depend on crack sales; why would repairing the harms of enforcement depend on cannabis sales? Plus when it comes to addressing the harm caused by the war on drugs, Black Oaklanders are owed way more than $8 million. Enforcing the drug war came from increased police budgets; repairing the drug war harms should also come from that same budget.

How much is actually going into community investment/social equity? 

  • The END (Emerald New Deal) Fund language is vague: It only provides a pie chart estimate of “up to” how much of a percent of the total END Fund money will be made “available” to each program. 
  • The only solid number provided in the text which is guaranteed to go directly into the hands of a drug war survivor is $1,200 per year. This amount is only offered to offset additional costs that come with serving on the END HARM (Emerald New Deal Healing And Reparations Measure) Committee (AKA paying them for their work). 
  • Even less helpful is the “0% loan” and “technical assistance fund” for equity business licenses. This leaves room for more hoops for equity operators to jump through, and no promised benefit.
  • Until all of this is built into the “Strategic Investment Plan,” the City Council is the only hand in the END Fund pot. 
  • No language or timeline for when the “Strategic Investment Plan” will be up and running. If this moves forward as is to a vote and passes, this means that the City Council has sole discretion over these funds for an undetermined amount of time, with no accountability, at least until the END HARM Committee is elected and appointed, which the officials themselves get paid to do.
  • Similarly, the “open and fair application process” could be lengthy and lack accountability for determining which individuals, programs or organizations best serve the goal of repairing the harms of the Drug War in Oakland.
  • As we have already seen, the Oakland City Officials have been slow to disburse funds from Cannabis Business and Social Equity taxes that have already passed. 

One thing I do agree with END is that cannabis tax dollars do not need to go to the general fund. Currently ALL business taxes in Oakland go to the general fund. The purpose of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission is oversight of cannabis tax dollars. The city attorney needs to restore that function back to the CRC. 

JR Valrey: Can the legislation be altered to better serve the community or do you think that it is dead in the water and a new proposal should be written? 

Chaney Turner: I don’t believe that END is the legislation that will address these issues. However, we all need to be at the table when it comes to addressing the “war on drugs.” I would like to see communities coming together to create a proposal. 

JR Valrey: When does this legislation come up to be voted on? 

Chaney Turner: On Monday, July 11, Council will vote on whether or not this will move to the ballot. 

JR Valrey: Besides the Emerald New Deal, what is the Cannabis Regulatory Commission up to? 

Chaney Turner: We’re up to numerous things. Taxes will always be an issue as it affects equity and smaller businesses the most. Some current things on the agenda are discussing consumption lounges, loan programs, our workforce development programs etc. 

JR Valrey: How could people keep up with the work of the Cannabis Commission? 

Chaney Turner: We meet every first Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. All of our meetings are open to the public. We also have two vacancies for those interested in joining. 

JR Valrey, journalist, author, filmmaker and founder of Black New World Media, heads the SF Bay View’s Oakland Bureau. He can be reached at blockreportradio@gmail.com or on Facebook. Visit www.BlackNewWorldMedia.com to read more.