As more and more states in the U.S. are legalizing the cultivation and sale of cannabis for medicinal and recreational purposes, cannabis producers are also facing hurdles on their path of expansion. Earlier in the month, many cannabis companies were burgled and vandalized so that members of the marijuana business community in the city of Oakland in California are requesting the state authorities and local authorities to provide them ‘tax amnesty’ for financial relief.
Supernova Women, the Oakland-based non-profit organization working to empower Black and Brown people to become active participants in the cannabis and other plant medicine spaces, held a press conference on Monday.
They strongly requested the authorities to give financial relief to cannabis business owners as more than 25 of licensed marijuana businesses were robbed or burgled during the week of November 15.
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The group particularly wanted a repeal of California’s cannabis cultivation tax and a ‘significant reduction’ in the excise tax on cannabis products. According to them, the measures were necessary for sustaining the small and minority-owned firms which had suffered up to $5 million in losses as a result of the robberies.
Amber Senter, executive director of Supernova Women, said at the press conference that all types of cannabis businesses – cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail, delivery and storefront – had been impacted by what had happened and that the industry needed tax relief.
She emphasized that cannabis equity businesses in particular needed more money and resources, and that small businesses and small farmers needed help. While higher taxes had always been difficult to cope with, cannabis operators were now finding them extra burdensome because of the increased threat of robberies and violence.
According to her, targeted attacks were more difficult to encounter, with the communities having no safety nets to fall back upon.
Raeven Duckett, a social equity licensee who founded Text Johnnie, pointed out that cannabis companies operating in Oakland paid at least a 6% tax while non-cannabis companies paid only 0.12%, which meant that cannabis companies were paying 600% more taxes than other Oakland companies.
She complained that when organized crime organizations targeted their facilities, there was little or no help and zero compassion from local law enforcement authorities. She pointed out that the businesses had been affected and operators were scared and that they deserved a safer work environment and local support in a city where they paid a high amount of taxes.
There were criticisms against police response to marijuana burglaries across the bay in San Francisco. A surveillance video of earlier this month, that was obtained by The San Francisco Chronicle, showed the local police watching without intervening while the suspects got away. The police were at the spot in response to a 911 call that a dispensary was being burglarized.
Amber Senter ended the rally and press conference of Monday with a request to the authorities to listen to them and help them. She said that it was their cry for help. She made it clear that they were not going to hire armed guards to protect their businesses because they did not start the businesses with any preparation for defending themselves. She said that the business was started only to offer a medicine and thereby improve people’s lives.
Before the cannabis-related robberies started, California Attorney General Rob Bonta had celebrated the 25th anniversary of the state’s move to legalize medical cannabis. He had described the then cannabis market as ‘number one in the world’, though he had acknowledged that more work needed to be done in the field. Before the robberies began, state officials were also accepting concept proposals for a program aimed at helping small-scale cannabis cultivators with environmental clean-up and restoration.
California Governor Gavin Newsom vetoed a bill last month that would have allowed cannabis businesses to advertise on billboards along many highways in the state. However, he recently approved a bill to boost the state’s hemp industry by legalizing retail sales of a wide range of consumable cannabis products including CBD-infused foods, beverages, cosmetics, and dietary supplements. This easing of restriction would eventually allow the sales of smokable cannabis products in the state.
In September, Governor Newsom also signed another legislation that required hospitals to permit selected patients to use medical marijuana in their facilities. Besides all these, in California, authorities are also granting millions of dollars to promote marijuana social equity initiatives, designed to promote equal opportunity in the cannabis industry by making ownership and business opportunities in the industry available to people and communities affected by the criminalization of cannabis.
California State Fair will also host a first-of-its-kind, state-sanctioned cannabis competition next year.