California’s Proposed Cannabis Fee Just Got Smaller, but Is It Still Too Much for Medicine?

Amid vocal pushback, California lawmakers this week scaled back a proposed fee on medical cannabis purchases and added a way for low-income patients to dodge the added cost. But patient advocates, noting that other medical treatments aren’t subject to special taxes, argue that even the modified plan will make for an undue burden on patients in the state. 

Senate Bill 987, introduced by Sen. Mike McGuire, would have tacked a 15-percent “user fee” — effectively a tax — onto all cannabis purchases. But on Monday lawmakers amended the bill to bring the rate down to 10 percent and include an exemption for patients who obtain a state medical cannabis ID card and can prove their income is less than 200 percent of the federal poverty level

The changes would no doubt ease the financial impact on patients, but many are still concerned the costs are too steep. Even obtaining an ID card — generally not necessary for patients to purchase, grow, and consume cannabis — can cost hundreds of dollars (prices vary by county). 

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The Assembly Revenue and Taxation Committee is set to consider the bill Monday afternoon. Advocates are calling on patients and other members of the public to write to the committee to oppose the fee. Signed letters sent by end of day Tuesday, according to Americans for Safe Access, will be included in next week’s committee analysis and report. 

Committee staff request that letters be sent by fax — yes that’s right, facsimile machine — to 916-319-2198.

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