Cannabis Taxation: Does it legitimize or patronize?

July 23, 2010 in Local Regulations

It seems as if the taxation of cannabis issue is rising around the State with municipalities contemplating putting multiple tax measures on the ballot to raise revenues. While I support taxation in a sense that it provides a certain amount of legitimacy to the process, it now seems as if when given the inch some cities are trying to get the mile. San Jose, Long Beach, Sacramento, Berkeley, Oakland and other cities are all vying to put forward tax measures that are aimed at bringing more income into the cities. Most measures will probably pass, as a small percentage of the population will be taxed, meaning the majority of folks will probably see it as a good deal. Unfortunately medical cannabis users will pay the brunt of it.

Oakland decided last night to use a tiered system, raising the tax from 1.8% for cannabis dispensaries to at least 2.5%. The big question I have is, “Didn’t Oakland just raise these taxes last fucking year?” They did not have the foresight then to realize a higher percentage or is it now that they see other cities vying for higher rates they want theirs? Measure F was passed in July of 2009 with a special ballot election. Now here we are one year later putting another measure up to raise them again? WTF?

I was a supporter of Measure F (and still am), as I can see how priming the pot a little can open doors for the community, and in all rights it has a little. I think San Jose is only considering medical cannabis in their city for the revenue. Without the money potential, I do not believe they would even be looking at the issue. While this scheme may have enabled more patients to access cannabis, it pisses me off that City Officials across the State are so boldly superficial and shallow as to reverse their positions to make a quick buck. Fuck you.

And furthermore, NONE of these cities are offering the protection or defense to the organizations they so rightfully attack. I can guarantee if the FEDS come knocking these Officials will not be at the raid with a sign and a bullhorn defending their golden gooses. Nope. They may issue some “day late, dollar short” resolution condemning the actions but there will be no interference or ability to stop the madness.

Take Oakland for instance. When I was raided in 2007, long after Measure Z made cannabis enforcement the lowest priority for law enforcement, Oakland PD assisted the DEA in the investigation of Tainted Inc. They did a traffic stop to investigate what my driver was carrying and then the feds used this information to press charges against the driver, and the dishwasher who happened to be in the car that day to get a ride. OPD virtually ruined these guys lives, got them plastered all over the news, and took away 2 plus years of their freedoms. Not only did the city not protect our medical cannabis rights, they assisted in our downfall. The question is, “If they cannot even stop their own police force from assisting in investigations for the feds, then how are they supposed to protect the producers and retailers they license?” I mean you want 5% of my shit, but what do I get. Can you even ensure your own police force will not be involved in my downfall? YOU CANNOT and history shows HAVE NOT.

Taxes are fine and dandy as long as they are reasonable, but more importantly, provide the protections afforded to other tax paying businesses. If I were opening one of the 4 mega farms I would be real fucking worried. 20 years for running a criminal enterprise is a lot to worry about for operating a non-profit organization that is afforded ZERO protections under the law by the City that is raping you for a tax rate that is over 40x the normal rate for a business. That is disturbing to me. Maybe this is the price of doing business and that would be great if you could somehow ensure me I would not spend the next two decades in the joint for my service to the community.

Another issue I am hearing is that services will be cut by collectives if the tax rate is increased, while at the same time I hear patients saying they will have to pay more for their medicine. SO, which is it? Will the collectives bear the burden, thus lowering their own income or will they pass on the extra fees to patients to keep their income levels? It can’t be both. Collectives want to argue that they will be unable to provide their auxiliary services because it will cut into their income levels. My first response is BULLSHIT. But then I rewind and think like a business owner and not a not-for-profit director and I can see that plight. Patients are worried the tax will get passed onto their cost of medicine. Well, the cost of medicine in Oakland couldn’t get much higher, so I also do not see the validity in that argument. Yes, someone will lose income. But should the cuts come directly from patient services? Why?

And why is Oakland proposing to fuck the growers at a rate double that of the retailers? Seems like unfair and unsavory business practices. In fact, this whole new press by Oakland is so filled with greed and so far from compassion, that it makes me sick. I have always revered Oakland as the best medical cannabis city on earth, but now I am a bit disgusted. I still love Oakland, but this full court press to make some money from our industry is disturbing. You just raised taxes last year. Why are we voting on this again? Are we going to put up a vote toraise taxes every year until the market can no longer bear it and providers are moving their operations to less needy and greedy cities? Maybe.

Do not think that just like Oakland drove out all the corporate businesses besides Kaiser and Mother’s Cookies, that these tax laws could come back to bight them in the ass in this industry, as well. As other cities become more cannabis friendly, the novelty of operating in a cannabis friendly city no longer becomes so desirable for Oakland. These tax rates will prove to be detrimental in the long run, because even cannabis producers with an affinity for Oakland, such as myself, will move on.

That is right. You have heard it here first. If and when I reopen my business IT WILL PROBABLY NOT BE IN OAKLAND. Why? Not because I have any less love for the O. But because the City is showing that they have little respect for me without my money- and that sucks. So Oakland may find the money they seek in the short term, but these policies also may be their long term downfall, as the industry grows up and will move to areas with lower tax rates and less invasive policies. It is just the way the world works- and Oakland has driven entire industries away before, so at least they are experienced in the process.

Reasonable taxation…Sure. Constantly raising the rates because they think our industry is an easy target…Go fuck yourself.