BY MICHELLE ANN RIZZIO
In the current landscape of our California cannabis industry, I’ve been finding it has been easy for customers and professionals alike to be jaded by the recreational market. As a cannabis professional myself, I am constantly in awe of the amount of forgetfulness folks have for how far we have grown since 1996 with the introduction of Proposition 215, the Medical Marijuana Initiative. With the passage of Prop 215 in 1996, medical marijuana was finally available and legal for long suffering patients. From those suffering from cancer, children with seizures, and vets with PTSD these folks were allowed to be able to medicate in peace. Safe access was the motivation back then, with the proposition allowing over 200,000 doctor qualified medical patients to find relief. In 2009, a decade ago, collectives began popping up in our very own desert. With OGs like Jim from Organic Solutions of the Desert, Gary from Desert Organic Solutions of the Desert, and Abe and Bill from IVTHC leading the way, the Coachella Valley became a safe haven for sufferers and provided the most important thing–safe access.
With all things, the industry has grown and changed. Prop 64 was passed in November 2017 allowing the groundwork for the robust market which we can choose from today. Every dispensary is different and offers an array of selection to customers. But, with the passing of Prop 64 one major thing was left in the past– compassion. California killed their medical program. With the dissolve of Prop 215 went the small farmers, the compassion based collectives, and affordable medicine. Without seeming too glum, this changed the title of patients to consumers and shifted the narrative from medical to recreational. I hear day in and day out about the price of cannabis and the frustration from those in poverty who need it that cant afford quality due to over taxation. This isn’t going to change with the upcoming year of 2020 where immediately cultivators will be taxed by the Department of Tax and Fee Administration an additional 20%, making the ultimate taxation 80%. This is excessive and insane due to the fact that Prop 64 also allows cities to dictate their own additional taxation on cannabis sales and cultivation as well. In some cities in the desert, these taxes create an insanely low margin for retailers, making it almost impossible to create profit higher than $1 to $2 dollars per item sold.
I desire to exist in a cannabis industry that remembers its roots and the people. I’m baffled and frustrated by the allowance we are giving to the various governmental bodies to dictate to us how cannabis should be taxed with little to no rejection from the people. Have we lost our will to fight for our precious plant? I can’t offer solution at this time, but I urge you to show up to your City Council meetings and state your concerns with the growing taxation of your medicine and to fight your city to lower taxes. We carry the power, and we can change anything by showing up.