Coming soon will be a major crackdown on the traditional California cannabis market. As if red tape and an expensive barrier to entry isn’t enough to keep a majority of long-time weed growers and distributors out of the market. Alleged pro cannabis legislators have introduced the “Temporary Cannabis Tax Reduction” bill (AB 286) to alleviate heavy cannabis taxes. However during their recent January 27 announcement they revealed that as a next step they’d like to allocate $100 million to revive California’s Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.
During the press conference at the state capital co-author of AB286 Reggie Jones-Sawyer divulged the costly plan, “last year we came up with a proposal in the budget to come up with 75 million to restart the Department of Narcotics Enforcement in the Attorney General’s office. It wasn’t funded. What my colleagues are talking about: this year I’m hoping we’re going to ask for 100 million or more because we believe we have to have a strong enforcement centralized agency out of the AG’s office to coordinate all the law enforcement operations throughout the state the same way they did before it was disbanded years ago.”
“The BNE is the very agency that raided Dennis Peron’s San Francisco Cannabis Buyers Club at the height of the Prop 215 campaign to legalize marijuana for medical use in 1996,” says Fred Gardner, long-time activist and the publisher of O’Shaughnessy’s—the definitive history of medical marijuana. “They employed 100 officers in that raid.”
The BNE also lead the militaristic cannabis eradication effort known as the Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP)—the largest law enforcement task force in the United States—destroying state-legal and clandestine marijuana grows as well as terrorizing growers throughout the 80s and early 90s.
To its chagrin the state took in $101 million less than expected in taxes from the cannabis industry last year. Not because their projections were wrong but because, “The black market continues to undercut businesses that are complying with state regulations,” says Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), who introduced the bill. “AB 286 will temporarily reduce the tax burden on these licensed operators.”
Notice Bonta’s targeted use of “black market” to add to the stigma? We here at Stuff Stoners Like recognize that this market has existed for years both above and below ground and to reduce stigma we always refer to it as the traditional market.
“The illicit market is dominating the cannabis industry,” said, So Cal’s Tom Lackey, another co-author of the bill. “These are people who are bad actors. We need to give the good guys a chance to succeed.”
Bad actors vs good guys? Here in California we’re talking about mom and pop operations, local growers and others who have made a living cultivating and distributing marijuana for decades—lawfully as far back as 1996 during Prop 215 or otherwise. These people are not bad actors. They’re just being intentionally kept out of participating in an expensive, elitist, legal marketplace. Further stigmatizing them and funneling money to narcs isn’t going to help.
Currently cannabis businesses could accrue tax rates upwards of 45 percent—significantly higher cumulative rates than any other business operating in California. So this new legislation will knock off four percent from the current excise tax on recreational weed—from 15 percent down to 11? Big deal. It’ll also suspend the cultivation tax of $9.25 per oz of bud for the next three years. This may marginally help consumers (who can’t grow their own weed or score it from grower friends) better afford the high cost of commercial cannabis. However it doesn’t help would-be business owners transition into licensed operators.
The rest of the media may have fallen for the “Cutting CA Cannabis Tax Is Great” angle but we’re not so foolish. The real story isn’t four percent less on Cali weed tax—it’s that “pro-cannabis” politicians want to funnel $100 million to a draconian group that’s victimized stoners for decades.
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