Lawmakers in California have decided to move forward on raising medical marijuana taxes.
Yesterday, the California State Assembly voted 60-12 in favor of SB 987. The bill allows for $9.25 per ounce of marijuana flowers, $2.75 per ounce of pot leaves and $1.25 per ounce of immature pot plants. The new medical marijuana taxes is expected to raise 77 million dollars per year toward local police and costs associated with environmental cleanups.
California Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) introduced SB 987 earlier this year. The bill calls for a 15% increase in addition to the medical marijuana taxes already collected from medical marijuana transactions. Currently, the sales tax on medical marijuana purchases ranges from 7 to 10% depending on local laws.
The bill goes against the trend in many other states where patients are spared the burden of high tax rates. According to the Nevada Department of Taxation, medical marijuana transactions carry a 2% excise tax. In Colorado, medical marijuana is subjected to a 2.9% sales tax in addition to any local taxes.
The tax rates in other states are significantly lower than the 15% California tax linked to SB 987. The trend seems to be placing the tax burden on recreational customers, as their need is considered for pleasure and not necessarily health related.
Don Duncan of Americans For Safe Access urged opposition of SB 987 when the bill was first proposed in February. “Adding an additional 15% to the cost of medical cannabis, which is not covered by insurance, will be an economic hardship for legal patients – especially those who are already economically vulnerable.” He said. “Imposing additional tax will be bad for public safety. Inflating the cost of legal medical cannabis will force some patients to buy less expensive cannabis from the unregulated illicit market – where there are no safety standards or oversight. That is the opposite of what regulations are supposed to accomplish.”
SB 987 has created some controversy as many accuse lawmakers of trying circumvent California’s state constitution. Tax increases require a two-thirds approval from legislators. However, SB 987 refers to monies collected as a “user fee” instead of a tax. The “user fee” would only require a simple majority of votes for passage.
Americans For Safe Access have created a petition against SB987. Click here if you are interested.