Cannabis legalisation 2016: Marijuana activists strongly oppose California’s bill to tax medicinal cannabis

By @ritwikroy1985 on
Marijuana
A man smokes marijuana during an annual 4/20 rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Canada, April 20, 2016. Reuters/Chris Wattie

California’s marijuana activists believe that cannabis legalisation 2016 has hit a roadblock as advocates are not happy with a pair of bills in the legislature. The bills would impose fees and taxes on medical marijuana to raise costs. The US state's Senate Bill 987 would charge patients a 15 percent user fee on medicinal cannabis purchases.

The Senate and the Assembly have both passed separate measures and upon receiving the Governor’s signature, one of them would take effect immediately. The bills are moving quickly through the Capitol and have received a lot of support from lawmakers.

The Senate Bill 987 is the more substantial of the two bills. It was called excise tax in the initial version of the bill. However, lawmakers amended the language to refer the tax as a fee to dodge a state requirement that tax increases earn a two-thirds majority vote from lawmakers. SB 987 will now go to the Assembly for consideration.

Medicinal cannabis advocates are now urging caretakers and patients to oppose the bills in the legislature. Advocacy groups such as Americans for Safe Access (ASA) are opposing the bills stating user fees are not assessed on chemotherapy, heart medications and insulin.

“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,” said ASA’s California Director Don Duncan in a statement.

Other advocacy groups such as Marijuana Policy Project are encouraging residents to contact their legislators to oppose the bills. The new regulatory scheme will likely take effect in 2018. It is set to establish an elaborate licensing system and an oversight body. All of this will cost state money.