Medical Marijuana: Is it Good for the Taxman or Is it Good for the Doctor?

Categories: Marijuana
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Whereas California needs money from pot
Operating a medical pot farm is no small feat --  especially when we know there are plenty of police and prosecutors who aren't, ahem, kind to the industry. 

But growing this cash crop could become even more costly and no safer under new legislation introduced by a Southern California state senator earlier this month.

The proposed legislation, which is the brainchild of State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello), would require growers, transporters, and sellers of medical marijuana to obtain a permit to do business. 

Calderon unsuccessfully tried to pass a similar measure last year.

According to the proposal, California's cannabis cultivators would be required to pay $1,300 for a state-growers permit under the Cannabis Certification and Regulation Act of 2011. Likewise, anyone distributing or transporting medical marijuana would have to obtain a similar license from the state Board of Equalization.

And then they would have to pay upfront a chunk of their sales taxes, just as tobacco transporters and sellers do.

But patient advocates are apoplectic, saying that the scheme burdens cannabis producers with more costs while ensuring absolutely no legal protection.

Directly modeled after the Cigarette and Tobacco Products Licensing Act of 2003, Calderon's plan would supposedly ensure product safety and compliance by tracking every ounce of medical marijuana that's grown and sold in the state. The little California golden bear stamp that's found on every pack of cigarettes would also be marked on marijuana -- and cops would make sure of this.

Adam Gray, Calderon's senior policy aide, points to an unnamed dispensary in Los Angeles that sold marijuana with the banned pesticide DDT on it.

"Where did that [cannabis] come from?" Gray asks rhetorically. "There's still a large black market out there."

There is no language in the 20-page bill that mandates -- or even suggests -- that marijuana be tested in a lab before it's sold at retail. Also, there's no legal protection for the folks who would be growing, transporting and selling medicine -- and who would have the tax stamps as proof.

"It's insane," said David Goldman, who sits on San Francisco's Medical Cannabis Task Force. "How do you prepay sales tax when you don't even know what you're going to sell it for? Where is our legal protection?"

"This is putting safe access [to medical cannabis] very much at risk," said Goldman, who is also head of the San Francisco chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a patients' advocacy group. "This is like having the Sword of Damocles halfway down on our necks."

It just so happens that this would also help out the state's financial crisis -- a deficit currently pegged at $26 billion. The new law would ensure that all taxes be paid on any medical marijuana transaction.

Activists like Goldman and California NORML worked to defeat Calderon's similar scheme last year. Yet this time around, Calderon is getting help from within the medical cannabis industry: A group dubbed the California Cannabis Association has signed onto the plan, according to Gray.

But Calderon's legislation has some competition.

State Sen. Luis "Lou" Correa (D - Santa Ana) has proposed a plan that prescribes fees, not taxes, to fund a regulatory system. It also puts regulation of the distribution network under the purview of the Department of Public Health, not the Board of Equalization. 

And this makes Correa's plan the "better" of the two, according to Matthew Cohen, the executive director of Northstone Organics, a Ukiah-based medical marijuana farm-to-door delivery service.

Other cannabis advocates agree. Correa's bill does not require transporters to pay for a permit and it does not exclude growers with a felony record from the state's medical marijuana industry, as Calderon's does.

It's better than expected, writes Dale Gieringer, executive director of California NORML, in a recent issue of West Coast Leaf.

It's entirely possible that neither bill will pass, although if we were betting bloggers, we'd short Calderon and long Correa.

But the point is that the two bills represent two major diverging schools of thought when it comes to the state's marijuana industry: Is medical cannabis medicine for the doctor, or goods for the taxman?

Is it a public health issue, or is it a public safety issue?

But for the cannabis users and cultivators, who for decades have had to worry about those dreaded knocks on the door, nurses will always trump the cops.

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Áine MacDermot
Áine MacDermot

Why model cannabis laws like recreational substances (alcohol) when clearly the DEA recognizes it as a drug (pharmaceutical)? Why tax cannabis any differently than pharmaceuticals are / are not taxed? Why require exorbitant licensing schemes & fees for cannabis dispensaries that pharmacies for pharmaceuticals do not have to jump through these hoops & pay these high licensing fees? The whole thing is an attempt to shut down medical cannabis in favor of the pill pushers, and against the patients who want to organically grow their own medicine, obviously. F*ck 'em, overgrow the government!

Medical marijuana is good for everybody. Not to mention it contributes millions of dollars every year to Local and State economies. Support the movement:

Jonathan Steigman
Jonathan Steigman

A tax on cannabis medicine is a tax on sick and suffering patients. Exploiting patients to raise money for the state is unethical and immoral. We don't tax prescription drugs and we don't tax medicinal plants. Why should the safe and natural medicinal plant cannabis fall prey to taxation?

Cannabis is used regularly by patients with cancer, AIDS, arthritis, diabetes, Tourettes, high blood pressure, PTSD, ADHD, depression, anxiety and hundreds of other conditions. Health insurance does not cover the cost of cannabis medicine, and many patients are uninsured or on disability. How dare the state try to extract more money from sick people!

All citizens should rise up to protest any tax on medicine. The sick and suffering of California and the courageous caregivers who risk arrest and financial ruin to help them deserve our protection.

Jonathan SteigmanCommunication DirectorAmericans for Safe Access, Silicon Valley

h. brown
h. brown

Dr. Krivitsky,

Your screed (the bulk of which I agree with) is virtually unreadable because no one ever taught you what a paragraph was.

Break your thoughts up and use spaces in between paragraphs and a standard indentation at the beginning of each paragraph.

On a related thought:

How much do you charge for a pot scrip? As a senior I found a doctor who gave me one for $45. What's your rate?

Go Giants!


Leonard Krivitsky, MD
Leonard Krivitsky, MD

Current situation with cannabis/medicinal cannabis legalization shows that the dangerous philosophies of "radical pragmatism", shared by both Marxists and Nazis, are well and alive in contemporary America when it comes to anti-cannabis policies! The extremists currently in charge of the DEA will stop at nothing to derail the medicinal cannabis program and the Will of Voters who voted for it. I wish I could see the day when the senseless and shameful witch-hunts against citizens over a natural medicinal plant cannabis finally end, and they will! I predicted a long time ago that anti-cannabis repression will lead to increased hard drug and alcohol abuse because they are not "easily" detected in random drug screens, especially when it comes to the "window" of their detection. All these so-called "random drug screens" unfairly target the users of the safest substance of them all - cannabis! I can't wait to see the day when these shameful and senseless witch-hunts against citizens in connection with cannabis medicinal plant will stop altogether. I stressed many times already that no system, no matter of how repressive, can survive on a series of "un-realities". Current undisguised assault by the "radical pragmatists" from the DEA on the will of the people of Montana (and now also Hollywood) demonstrate their delusional thinking their attempts in suppression science (and people's will) will be more successful than those of Inquisition, Gestapo, or KGB! I wish I could live to see these people's miserable and disgraceful failure! Everything that the DEA and its allies use to intimidate citizens (and politicians) about the remarkable cannabis plant is based on unreality: cannabis is NOT physically addictive, the so-called "gateway drug theory" is NOT scientifically valid, smoking cannabis does NOT lead to increase in the risk of lung cancer, legalization in other countries did NOT lead to increased cannabis use, and in addition it is proven that cannabis use suppresses violent behavior. To claim that drug Marinol is the same as medicinal cannabis is to make yet another break from reality. Cannabis is immeasurably safer than alcohol, (and most currently used prescription drugs - do we even notice their devastating potential side effects at their TV commercials?), and be so ignorant as to say that cannabis plant does not have medicinal value is to be out of touch with "reality" altogether. Legalization of medicinal cannabis is non-partisan because all of us can get sick and be able to take advantage of its remarkable medicinal properties. Let's reject the prohibitionist fear-tactics as they have no substance to them, and legalize cannabis in all 50 States without further delay!


The Green Cross has been, and continues to be, adamant that cannabis is medicine, andMedical Cannabis Dispensaries and patients are taxed at the state and local level, through sales tax, payroll tax, and income tax. Levying higher taxes, licences or fees, like those suggested, will result in higher prices for patients. Proponents say these taxes are a way to legitimize and justify patients use. However, such a sin tax only works to punish patients, the only members of the California adult population who currently are allowed to purchase cannabis legally.


Kevin Reed

The Green Cross1230 Market Street #419San Francisco, CA 94102

Office: 1.415.648.4420Fax: 1.415.431.2420Email: Web:

The Green Cross Confidentiality Notice: This communication (including any attachments) may contain information that is proprietary, privileged or confidential or otherwise legally exempt from disclosure. The sender does not intend to waive any privilege, including the attorney-client privilege, that may attach to this communication. If you are not the intended recipient, you are not authorized to intercept, read, print, retain, copy, forward or disseminate this communication or any part of it. If you have received this communication in error, please notify the sender immediately by email and delete this communication and all copies.


Tobacco and alcohol producers also have a guarantee that they won't be shut down and/or arrested for doing what they do. If they implement these plans, will cannabis producers get the same guarantees? If not, no way!

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