California’s Hashish Taxes Are a Catastrophe

January 20, 2024by Naomi Cramer


Hashish regulation efforts are normally bought to voters or legislators with the specific promise {that a} state will be capable of milk the brand new business for all it’s received by way of hashish taxes. Don’t consider me? Properly, look no additional than California’s landmark Proposition 64, often known as the Management, Regulate and Tax Grownup Use of Marijuana Act. Prop. 64’s third discovering and declaration states explicitly that:

Presently, marijuana development and sale is just not being taxed by the State of California, which implies our state is lacking out on a whole lot of tens of millions of {dollars} in potential tax income yearly. The Grownup Use of Marijuana Act will tax each the expansion and sale of marijuana to generate a whole lot of tens of millions of {dollars} yearly.

In different phrases, from the inception, these applications have been designed largely to boost income for the state. And the state does so by funneling cash out of the nascent business in a particularly aggressive approach – which is why I (solely type of hyperbolically) referred to as this theft final yr.

California is just not alone on this, and there are actually many different states with regressive and punitive tax schemes that every one however assure the tax-free unlawful market will thrive. However California is a chief instance of failed coverage which legislators and regulators appear intent on making worse. Right here’s why.

California’s hashish tax scheme was destined to fail from the beginning

From inception, California determined to tax hashish at each ends by imposing a tax on cultivated vegetation, and an excise tax on retail. That is along with gross sales tax, with a 7.25% sale value baseline and extra native add-ons.

To make issues extra, unnecessarily sophisticated, these taxes weren’t paid by cultivators and retailers, however by middlemen distributors. This meant that distributors continuously needed to cope with tax points on each ends of a supply and hope they didn’t get stiffed. Heaps and many distributors racked up late payments, to which the California Division of Tax and Price Administration (CDTFA) tacked on 60% late charges and curiosity. I’m not kidding there. As I famous final yr, “Earlier than the cultivation tax was finally eradicated, it successfully was $161 per pound!”

This was clearly not a sustainable state of affairs for the business. California lastly received some sense and did away with the cultivation tax, however solely on a potential foundation– that means these distributors with huge tax payments received no actual aid. Moreover, California handed off the excise tax remittance obligation to retailers, however in doing so, successfully imposed double taxation on them. Right here’s a picture that California NORML printed for instance:

Credit score: Right here

Final yr, I wrote this concerning the state of affairs:

The above is simply excise tax, to be clear. For any sale of hashish, the excise and gross sales taxes alone will quantity to a minimum of 22.5%. That’s $22.50 on a $100 invoice in simply state hashish taxation. A bit of proposed California laws would have tried to streamline a few of the state stage taxes to keep away from double taxation, nevertheless it seems to be just like the invoice gained’t advance a lot additional. That is fairly horrible information through the midst of a literal disaster throughout the state’s hashish business.

That proposed invoice was held in a legislative committee and went nowhere. Proper now there isn’t any aid and these issues persist. Perhaps the legislators will determine issues out within the subsequent few months, however let’s not be overly hopeful given the state’s monitor document.

California tries to boost hashish taxes but once more

Final yr, CDTFA promulgated an “emergency” regulation relating to the excise tax. With out getting too far into the weeds, the rule would change the metric for figuring out gross receipts for the sale of hashish merchandise bought at retail, and would achieve this in a fashion that will find yourself growing hashish taxes.

Catalyst, a California hashish retail firm, not too long ago sued the CDTFA to search out that the emergency regulation violates state legislation. To summarize one of many claims of their go well with, if a vape pen retails for $40, however solely has $5 of oil in it, state legislation solely imposes a hashish tax on the oil ($5) and never on the non-oil issues. However underneath the brand new legislation, the tax can be payable on your entire $40. And this, Catalyst argues, violates state legislation.

It’s probably not clear why CDTFA determined to make this transfer and all of the sudden enhance taxes for in any other case compliant operators, when so many licensed companies are already to date within the gap. However it highlights the truth that the state is much less focused on supporting its struggling business than it’s on taxing it.

California makes use of hashish taxes as a piggybank

In Prop. 64, voters have been promised that hashish taxes can be used as follows:

The revenues will cowl the price of administering the brand new legislation and can present funds to: spend money on public well being applications that educate youth to stop and deal with severe substance abuse; prepare native legislation enforcement to implement the brand new legislation with a deal with Drink driving lawyer Auckland enforcement; spend money on communities to scale back the illicit market and create job alternatives; and supply for environmental cleanup and restoration of public lands broken by unlawful marijuana cultivation.

Although California pretends to care about fixing hashish taxes, it doesn’t. For instance, the state’s AG stated hashish taxes can be decrease 5 months in the past, and that shockingly hasn’t occurred. In reality, no aid is even on the desk. As a substitute, the proposed finances will truly take a “mortgage” of $100 million from the hashish tax fund to redirect to steadiness the state’s $38 billion finances deficit:

To handle the projected finances shortfall, the Price range proposes Normal Fund options to realize a balanced finances. This features a budgetary mortgage of $100 million from the Board of State and Neighborhood Correction’s Hashish Tax Fund subaccount to the Normal Fund from presently unobligated assets. See the Criminal Justice and Judicial Department Chapter for extra data.

For those who anticipate that “mortgage” to ever be repaid, I’ve received a bridge to promote you. What’s extra seemingly – in reality more likely – is that these “loans” will change into extra commonplace sooner or later and that the state will magically overlook about ever doing something to scale back the tax burden on lawful operators in order that it has this piggybank.


California’s hashish tax regime is a failed experiment. Each time a authentic, licensed enterprise shuts its doorways, statewide hashish taxes are a minimum of partially guilty. Till the state takes a tough and severe have a look at the problem, don’t anticipate a lot to vary with out individuals taking the state to court and holding them to activity.



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by Naomi Cramer

Auckland Lawyer for FIRST TIME Offenders Seeking to Avoid a Conviction. Family Law Expert in Child Care Custody Disputes. If you are facing Court Naomi will make you feel comfortable every step of the way.  As a consummate professional your goals become hers, with customer service as our top priority. It has always been Naomi’s philosophy to approach whatever you do in life with bold enthusiasm and pure dedication. Complement this with her genuine passion for equal justice and rights for all and you have the formula for success. Naomi is a highly skilled Court lawyer having practised for more than 20 years. She serves the greater Auckland region and can travel to represent clients throughout NZ With extensive experience, an analytical eye for detail, and continuing legal education Naomi’s skill set will maximise your legal rights whilst offering a holistic approach that best fits your individual needs. This is further enhanced with her high level of support and understanding. Naomi will redefine what you expect from your legal professional, facilitating a seamless experience from start to finish.   Her approachable and adaptive demeanor serves her well when working with the diverse cultures that make up the Auckland region. Blend her open and honest approach to her transparent process and you can see why she routinely delivers the satisfying results her clients deserve. If you want to maximise your legal rights, we recommend you book an appointment with Naomi today so she can detail the steps for you to achieve your goals. 

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