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Policy and a Pint: Can We Fix California's Screwed-Up Cannabis Market?

  • Fitsom Studios 2512 Franklin Boulevard Sacramento, CA, 95818 United States (map)

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On the surface, the legal cannabis business looks like the greatest thing since sliced bread to hit California’s tax coffers. After all, this is an industry that's been collecting tens of billions of dollars under the table for decades, and California recently opened its doors to adult use of cannabis. So this should be a major moneymaker for the Golden State, right?

Sorry to harsh your buzz, but no. California's cannabis industry is an absolute mess.

In May, the Governor’s office released state budget documents showing that it has cut cannabis tax revenue projections by a whopping $223 million through 2020 — and that’s after California has already reduced expectations numerous times already — so it’s only expecting $288 million this year, and $359 million in fiscal 2020. Just for context, when Proposition 64 made marijuana legal back in 2016, the estimates were for more than $1 billion in annual taxes not long after ramp-up. Which means California cannabis isn’t even living up to a third of its long-term potential.

How could the state miscalculate its cannabis business so badly? A few reasons given are: 1) a blanket of regulatory red tape; 2) taxes, taxes and more taxes; 3) anti-cannabis city councils and NIMBY objections; and 4) the black market’s not going anywhere.

So where do we go from here? What can be done to bring a new high to the cannabis industry and get it back on the track it was projected to run?

For this edition of “Policy and a Pint,” join us for a conversation with some pros about how to make sure California’s legal cannabis market doesn’t go up in smoke.


* Kimberly Cargile, executive director of the Sacramento cannabis dispensary A Therapeutic Alternative

* Joe Devlin, former chief of cannabis for the City of Sacramento who just became senior vice- president of new market development for Ikanik Farms

* Khalil Ferguson, executive fellow for policy and research at the California Urban Partnership

* Gabriel Garcia, principal at Garcia Law Corporation who practices cannabis law

* Amy Jenkins, senior policy director for the California Cannabis Industry Association

* John Oram, CEO of NUG, a diversified cannabis company based in Oakland that just opened its first retail shop in Sacramento