The State of Law: One Year After CA Legalization
You might think that only those folks in the cannabis industry—budtenders, cannasseurs and the like—would be interested in California cannabis news.
But you’d be wrong. We’re constantly surprised—and honestly, kind of thrilled!—by the excitement and energy the subject of cannabis law generates. If the stereotype about cannabis users used to be that they were disinterested, uninvolved, or just plain couldn’t be bothered with current events, we’re happy to report that the truth is anything but.
So with that in mind, let’s check in on the state of cannabis news in California one year into full legalization. And prepare yourself: It’s been one wild ride thus far!
2019 California Cannabis News
As we reported earlier this year, the state released new legal guidelines. There were no major surprises, though many consumers were disappointed to learn that the state’s stiff taxes—which account for as much as 40% of the final price of cannabis—aren’t going down anytime soon.
But we’re hoping the latest round of news should help drive prices down. In February, the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration released its final revenue figures for 2018. The most populous state in the nation—and without much argument the largest and most significant market for legal cannabis—generated roughly $345 million in the first year of legalization.
Make no bones about it: That’s significant. But as recently as January 2018, then-Governor Jerry Brown had predicted a haul of $643 million, on the way to what some analysts hoped could soon reach $1 billion. What gives?
For one, there are those taxes we mentioned earlier (in addition to the state, local cities and counties often levy their own fees). In a state as large and porous as is California, some consumers simply shrugged their shoulders and turned to the black market.
For another thing, many communities that didn’t want to be associated with legal cannabis sales took the initiative to ban them in their jurisdictions. Some sources estimate as many as 75% of cities and counties did so. A harsh toke, as they say, but one not entirely unexpected in the early stages of full legalization. Expect to see that number drop as communities begin to see the value of those taxes (and admit that legalization hasn’t unleashed a flood of dead-eyed canna-zombies ravaging their streets).
The Future of California Cannabis Law
The disappointing start aside, those tax revenue numbers should go up. Conversely, that may mean the retail of price of weed decreases as the legislature ramps down the steep levies it currently imposes.
But for that to happen, more lawmakers need to get on board. Rep. Rob Bonta, who represents the 18th Assembly District (which includes the Central East Bay) has introduced a bill to temporarily pause the cultivation tax and lower the excise tax. But his bill needs a super-majority to become law, and many lawmakers are angling to raise taxes right now, not lower them.
In short, it’s just another topsy-turvy month in California cannabis news! Keep your eyes glued to this space for regular updates, dispatches and more.