California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

High Cost: Marijuana Taxes Stifle Growers

In Ventura County this election cycle, the cities of Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, Santa Paula and Oxnard each have measures on the ballot regarding marijuana taxation and regulation. I will be voting against these overreaching propositions in the hopes that better legislation comes along down the line, but I won’t be holding my breath.

Proposition 64, called the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act,” passed in 2016 and legalized cannabis use for adults over the age of 21 in California. This change created a cultural shift in the Los Angeles area, a city already ripe with weed from medical dispensaries.

Advertising for cannabis dispensaries began appearing, delivery services cropped up and small farmers were forced to close their doors.

“Legalization has forced me to grow my own,” personal grower Lisa said. Lisa sometimes grows more than the legally allowed six plants at a time, so her last name has been omitted for her privacy. Online, she goes by the pseudonym “The Fairy Bud Mother.”

Lisa said that licensing fees and regulations on farmers, as well as mandated product testing, put a lot of folks who grew marijuana out of business.

Proposition 64 requires farmers to weigh their entire plant after harvest to comply with regulations, not just the weight of the THC-laden flower. This discrepancy in reported weight from actual product makes farmers appear to be growing more marijuana than they really are, forcing them into different taxation brackets. In addition, dispensaries must now only buy marijuana from distributors that have tested and pre-packaged the cannabis in childproof containers.

The testing, regulations, packaging and distributing all cost money. In any industry, when it gets more expensive to produce a product, prices go up.

“It used to be you could buy an eighth of nice cannabis for $30 to $55. Now I don’t see much for under $65, and that’s before the state and local taxes. In LA, it’s about 25 percent of the total,” Lisa said.

These new propositions reach even further. The VC Star reported that in Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley and Oxnard, there is a proposed tax rate of $10 per square foot of canopied cultivation space, 6 percent of retail weed sales and 4 percent of any other cannabis-related businesses.

In Santa Paula, the proposed rate is at $25 per square foot of growing space and a 10 percent tax on any cannabis-related sales.

If proposed measures are passed, prices for marijuana will likely inflate even further. For people like Lisa, it is about being able to afford medication for chronic pain. Others use it for ailments like social anxiety, insomnia or to combat the effects of chemotherapy.

“The cannabis industry no longer serves the medical patients, and cannabis as medicine paved the way for legalization. So, the state has more than doubled the cost of medication for the patient,” Lisa said.

A new Gallup poll reported over 60 percent of Americans are in favor of nationwide legalization, but this legalization has given way to taxations and regulations that are strangling the industry and deeply harming medical marijuana patients who fought to get this natural medication legalized.

The measures proposed on the ballot this year are not helpful. Estimated city profits from the increased taxes vary widely, from $130,000 a year to $2.5 million according to the VC Star, suggesting officials the outcome of these measures is uncertain. Without certainty as to the benefit, how can we possibly justify passing along the cost to those who use this plant as medicine?

I would rather have an industry that allows for the people to safely purchase the product they fought for. Cannabis should be legal and regulated to some extent, but the way legislators have gone about it so far, has done more harm than good. Come Nov. 6, I’ll be doing my part to make sure we do not cause any more damage.

Katherine Lippert

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