Compassion Making a Comeback in California's Cannabis Market

One of the most underreported and undervalued aspects of the old school Prop215 era of cannabis here in California was how compassionate the community was for those truly in need. Whether it was meds for those who didn’t have money, or money for those who needed medical help, time and again the weed world came together to provide.

Cancer patients, military veterans, and the homeless ranked among the top of the beneficiaries, and rightfully so, as excess cannabis flowers, extracts, edibles and other infused products were donated in massive quantities to non-profit organizations who would then distribute the goods fairly and efficiently.

Sure, many companies benefited from the good PR that comes along with helping those in need, but by and large the intentions were pure and the results were countless Californians getting safe access to a healthy alternative to pills, booze, tobacco, or worse.

Then in 2016, Californians voted to pass Proposition 64, aka the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), and among the sharpest of all the razors in that apple was language that specifically squashed the opportunity for compassion in the new taxed and regulated cannabis market.

No you hippies can’t GIVE it away, then how would we suits in Sacramento get our cut?

Specifically, the new law of the land made adult use recreational cannabis “legal” on January 1st of 2018. In doing so, it did away with any distinction between commercial entities and non-profit ones, lumping all applicants and licensees into the same category and the same tax implications.

What this means is that the state cultivation tax of $9.25/ounce is still imposed on all cannabis flower harvests, even on buds dedicated for donation. Even trim is taxed at $2.75/ounce. This deep hit at the very start of the supply chain is a big contributor to the high prices that consumers see at the retail register, and is a big contributor to the fact that countless cultivators have chosen to go back into the shadows instead of out into the light.

Now, if they intend to gift their crop, compassionate cannabis growers have to shell out roughly $150/lb on top of all the time, effort, costs, and risk involved with actually growing the plant. This has caused an outcry from the cannabis community as those most in need have been hung out to dry all because of supposed “legalization”.

Some progressive lawmakers in the state capital have heard these voices and last year Senate Bill 829 was introduced to address this nonsense roadblock in AUMA. The bill enjoyed rare bipartisan support throughout the process of advancing it to the governor’s desk. Once it got there, however, former Cali gov Jerry Brown vetoed it outright ignorantly claiming that giving away weed “for free” would “undermine” the intent of the voters who approved Prop 64. This was incredibly offensive to anyone who knew how large a role that compassionate care played in Prop 215, and how it laid the groundwork for recreational use.

Well, cranky ass weed hating Jerry Brown is now out of office and yelling at the clouds somewhere and while our new governor Gavin Newsom is far from ideal, he has proven to be much more pragmatic than his predecessor when it comes to pot. That will be put to the test soon as several new pieces of cannabis-related legislation are blazing a trail directly to his desk.

The one we have our eye on is Senate Bill 34.

Rising from the ashes of the vetoed SB 829, this new version is virtually identical in its wording and would essentially allow cannabis licensees to donate cannabis products under certain conditions and be exempt from any excise, sales and use, or cultivation taxes at least until January 1st, 2025.

SB 34 was filed as an Emergency Bill and its author, state Senator Scott Weiner, sums up its intent best by saying, “Poverty should not be a barrier to getting your medicine. We don't tax prescription drugs. Why should we tax medical cannabis?”

SB 34 passed off of the Assembly Floor last night with a vote of 71 in favor and ZERO opposed. The bill will head back to the Senate once more time for concurrence and any final amendments (unlikely to be any) and then will be sent to Gov. Newsom’s desk for his final decision.

It’s hard to know whether or not Jerry Brown knew that he was literally handing out death sentences to sick kids, opioid addicted military vets, and so many others when he callously shredded SB 829 but we do know that Newsom rode a progressive wave of support into office promising fairness in the state’s new cannabis market as well as a pitch for universal healthcare to ensure that ALL California residents have safe access to proper medicine. This one should be a slam dunk, Mr. Governor.

This bill will hit Governor Newsom’s desk and be decided on before the end of the year.

This is a representative democracy!

He is only in that position because voters put him there, now is your chance to hold him accountable for it.

You can contact Gov. Newsom HERE and politely request that he sign SB 34 the instant it hits his desk. It will only take you a couple of minutes, can you do that in the name of compassionate cannabis?

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