Some revenue from cannabis sales taxes and fees would be used to create a neighborhood health fund with the goal of revitalizing communities damaged by the war on drugs under a plan advanced Wednesday by a Los Angeles City Council committee.

The Rules, Elections, and Intergovernmental Relations Committee voted in favor of exploring the financial feasibility of establishing the fund, which would be used to support youth leadership and civic engagement, after-school programs and educational opportunities, as well as improved local health services in minority communities “as they recover from pernicious drug laws.” How much money would be dedicated to the fund or how it would be administered was not specified in the motion introduced by Councilman Marqueence Harris-Dawson.

“Many jurisdictions have skipped the important step of understanding and acknowledging how past cannabis policies have affected communities and making intentional efforts to address those harms moving forward,” said Cat Packer, executive director and general manager of the Department of Cannabis Regulation.

Marijuana has been legal for recreational sale and use in California since Jan. 1, and the Los Angeles City Council drafted a series of rules and regulations last year in preparation for the new industry. There are 147 shops legally operating in the city, according to the Department of City Planning, although the city has received more than 500 applications and is still processing many of them.

Harris-Dawson, who represents many Latino and African-American neighborhoods in South Los Angeles, outlined his support for the health fund in a letter to the committee.

“Even as we stand on this precipice, we must recognize that we stand squarely in the shadow of the unjust War on Drugs. This atrocity targeted Angelinos of color, decimated neighborhoods, ripped families apart and criminalized the illness of addiction,” Harris-Dawson wrote. “Today, we have an opportunity to build new systems and shape an industry in ways that recognizes wrongs, respect all residents, and intentionally builds a more equitable society.”

Citing several Drug Policy Alliance studies, Harris-Dawson said that 80 percent of people federally incarcerated for drug offenses are black or Latino, and that black Angelinos are arrested for marijuana possession at seven times the rate of whites.

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