.Rolling Papers – Opportunities for change in policy
By Michael Giotis
In some ways, the promise of the cannabis industry hasn’t panned out in California. The right to access for medical use and the opportunity to bring money into beleaguered communities through adult-use have each been less than ideal.
With Prop 215 1996, Californians made providing affordable access to medical cannabis into law. Yet, as point of sale costs rise, reasonable access has come to jeopardy.
The social equity programs created through post-legalization cannabis policy attempt to repair some of the harm caused by enforcement of the “Drug War,” which has from the start fallen unevenly on people of color.
These local and state programs provide ways to offer benefits like grants and fast track licenses to those most directly affected by the legacy of policing cannabis use in black and brown neighborhoods. But under the weight of up to 67% taxation and fees, local BIPOC cannabis businesses are crumbling.
There are allies in government who understand the vital importance of these needed changes, including state Sen. Steve Bradford, who introduced SB 1281 and SB 1293, bills which call for, in part, three solutions that can be put into place immediately.
1) Suspend the excise tax for Social Equity Retailers. Let people open viable retail businesses in their own neighborhoods. This would be a 15% reduction in cost right off the top, allowing for some wealth creation, the kind that BIPOC folks can pass on to the next generation. Justice in dollars, man.
2) Reduce all excise tax to 5%. The state of California has a massive cash surplus right now. Cut the state-wide excise tax for all recreational cannabis. We don’t need the extra money sitting in a vault; we need the access that the people of California have twice voted to increase.
3) A statewide definition for Social Equity. The legal cannabis market is the opportunity of a generation to redefine the economic opportunities for communities that have long been deprived of a fair shake. For too long, the primary funding sent into these communities has gone to expanded policing. A statewide definition of Social Equity will serve to guide not just policy but attitudes toward black- and brown-owned businesses.
You may have just voted. Be real though, democracy can’t stop there. To get the cannabis industry that benefits California the way Californians intended in past elections will require more than just voting. Advocates and conscious consumers will have to push officials and influence public opinion. For a start, concerned readers can call on their own state representatives and members of the Budget and Finance Committee to support SB 1281 and SB 1293.
For a toolkit to support cannabis tax reform, click the Take Action button at supernovawomen.com.