As the dust settles from last week’s whirlwind of cannabis reforms hitting Sacramento, the owner of one of L.A.’s oldest and most storied dispensaries weighs in on what he believes is the best option on the table. 

After seeing our coverage of where the debate on the United Cannabis Business Association-backed tax plan and separate cultivation tax suspension is heading, AHHS West Hollywood founder Jason Beck hit us up to say he would hope the industry would be pushing SB 1281.

Beck’s hopes are understandable. Presumably, the plan to discontinue the cultivation tax, reduce the excise tax to 5%, and remove the mark-up from the definition of average market price in an arm’s length transaction would be popular. The bill also would require the cannabis retailer to pay the excise tax directly to the state, as opposed to prepaying the taxes to a distributor on product they haven’t sold yet. 

Like all tax bills messing with what Prop 64 set as the law by will of the voters, it would require a two-thirds vote of both houses to change the language that was voted on. 

This most industry-friendly option is not the most palatable on the table for lawmakers. Nevertheless, it’s certainly fair to think it would continue to drive the conversation in the right direction even if it falls short. We asked Beck what he thought the line in the sand would be for the industry when you’re talking about real progress on the tax issue? He replied it’s basically everything the bill entails from his perspective, which is certainly a more proven one than much of the pack. 

But one could also argue trying to score everything in SB 1281?

“I get it. But you know what? It’s something that has to happen in order for the industry to succeed otherwise, all you’re gonna have is the illicit market,” Beck told L.A. Weekly. “We’re not going to have a real industry here in California.”

Given the number of bills that dropped last week on the tax issue, it’s pretty clear the industry is as splintered as ever. One of the trickiest parts about changing cannabis laws in California, and federally, is how many people claim to be speaking for the industry. While the 20 logos at the bottom of the letters to Congress and Sacramento are nice, it would be helpful if things were more consolidated. 

Even if the industry can’t organize well enough to move a tax bill this year, Beck argues the bills are almost a live brainstorming session. 

But there are a lot of smaller wins for the industry on the table, as of last Friday. We asked Beck how much harder is it to push big wins when lawmakers can just pick the less aggressive and cheaper option that’s also on the table?

“I understand that but I think that’s gonna depend on involvement that the community can get behind and really steer the message in the court of public opinion around these different bills and what needs to be done for the industry overall,” Beck said. “I totally agree with you. A lot of things can get lost in the lip service of this and the trade-off of this and the trade-off of that. But ultimately, the cannabis industry needs systemic relief, and this bill is the only one that really answers all of the problems that really need to be addressed immediately, in order for the industry to strive and thrive.”

We’ll keep an eye on the continuing tax debate for sure. 

LA Weekly