Margie Shafer/KCBS Radio

Patients And Pols Clamor For Tax-Free Weed

Margie Shafer
November 29, 2018 - 9:18 pm

Some California legislators say that since cannabis has been medicinally available for more than two decades, it should be taxed as much as other prescriptions — not at all. 

State Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco) and State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Oakland) announced plans to push for tax-free medical pot next year when Governor-Elect Gavin Newsom takes office. Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a similar bill.

“Right now, we have a big problem where there are people who cannot access their medicine,” Wiener said. “This is about making sure low-income people who are suffering health conditions are able to continue to access their medicine.”

Such a bill would benefit Steve Stevens, who is HIV positive and has survived colon cancer. He’s used medical cannabis for decades, which he says reduces stress and nausea. 

“Pot has really improved the quality of my life,” he said, “but I’m also on a very fixed income and the clubs are very expensive for those of us who are struggling just to pay rent.”

So Wiener and Skinner plan to reintroduce the legislation that would exempt care program donations for medical marijuana from state taxes.

“We are making a distinction that just like we don’t tax prescription medicine, we should not tax medical cannabis,” Skinner said. “For example, if you’re on MediCal, you get a subsidy for your medicines and you obviously don’t pay a tax on those. Similarly, that’s what we’re trying to strive for for medical cannabis.”

A previous version of this bill, Senate Bill 829, received near unanimous support before Brown vetoed it in January. He said it conflicted with voter-approved Prop. 64, which legalized adult use of cannabis across the state. Brown’s major issue was that Bill 829 allowed cannabis clubs to give out free samples to patients. ​

Given Newsom's general pro-marijuana stance, Wiener said he's confident about getting the law enacted. 

“While I would never speak for the governor,” Wiener said, “I think we have a real shot at getting him to sign it.”

Written by Brian Krans.