Thursday, February 28, 2019

California's Cannabis Taxes Drive Unregulated Market, Harms Patients And Providers

Earlier this month PAN reached out to each member of the California legislature, as well as department heads, seeking amendments to current cannabis regulations that will make medical cannabis more affordable for patients.

PAN has received some feedback from the legislature and at least one bill aims to reduce the excise tax but only temporarily.  There is still a lot of work to be done.  Below is PAN's letter to the California legislature.  We will continue to demand patient-friendly amendments.


Patient Advocacy Network
Degé Coutee, President
P.O. Box 93845
Los Angeles, CA 90093

(323) 334-5282

Office of the Governor
Governor Gavin Newsom
State Capitol, Suite 1173
Sacramento, CA 95814

RE: My letter to the California Senate and Assembly Regarding Medical Cannabis

February 4, 2019

I write to you regarding the current state of medical cannabis in California. Since 1992, I have advocated for safe, affordable access for medical cannabis patients, provided social services and education to patients and their caregivers, and became a compliance expert in the medical cannabis industry where I have worked with nearly 3,500 cannabis business operators since 2003.  

January of last year I began asking patients about their experiences at cannabis outlets as the new rules came into effect.  After several dozen inquiries I got the same answer from all of them. None of the patients I spoke with are purchasing medical cannabis from licensed cannabis businesses.  They all said they found more affordable options and could no longer pay the prices at the regulated shops.  

I asked cannabis business operators if they still saw their patient members and one operator stated, “before I got my ‘A’ license I had 8,000 patient members – after January (2018) I haven’t seen any of them.”  Another operator told me he can’t blame patients for finding other means because his low-income patients are suffering under the new rules.

There are numerous ways in which the current regulations make medical cannabis unaffordable.  The fees and over-taxation from seed to sale and every process in between is currently driving the underground market, and this market appears to be expanding as is the demand for it.  No amount of enforcement will alleviate this unless the prices in the regulated market can come down.  Prices have increased under the current regulations 28% - 36% more than patients were paying a little over a year ago, and many have taken their business elsewhere.

I ask the California State Legislature to please make reasonable amendments to our medical cannabis regulations so that the price can return to what the patient market will bear, $30 - $55 per eight of an ounce of flower after tax.  Please make the rules reasonable for businesses that want to provide free and low-cost medical cannabis products to indigent patients. 

During the 2016 Election patient advocates were told repeatedly that Prop 64 would NOT interfere with Prop 215.  The lack of affordability that is pushing  patients to the black market, and the lack of compassion programs were not the intent of Prop 64.  California can have a lucrative cannabis industry and still take care of patients; this is what the voters intended. 

I thank you for your time and consideration and look forward to working the California legislature to restore Compassion to our state’s medical cannabis regulations. 


Degé Coutee
President, Executive & Program Director
Patient Advocacy Network


PAN is a charitable 501(c)(3) organization