San Francisco State Senator Scott Weiner to deliver keynote in support of his bill, SB 34, The Compassionate Cannabis Tax Bill. Compassionate cannabis providers from around the state are uniting in Oakland this Friday to launch a major grassroots effort to ensure low income, terminally ill patients retain access to free medical cannabis. Organized by Sweetleaf Collective and East Bay Healing Alliance, the event features a keynote address by State Senator Scott Weiner and remarks by the four surviving co-authors of Proposition 215.
Since 1996, when Prop 215 legalized medical cannabis in California, several activists have made it their mission to provide free cannabis to low income, terminally ill patients, known as compassionate care. Joe Airone founded Sweetleaf Collective under the compassionate model, delivering free cannabis to low income HIV/AIDS in San Francisco.
Since its inception, Sweetleaf has been operating legally. But when Proposition 64 legalized recreational cannabis, the State failed to distinguish between commercial and non-commercial, compassionate business models. The new law required all cannabis providers to pay a tax on the market value of the cannabis they distributed, regardless of whether they sold it for a profit or just gave it away.
Sweetleaf, for example, has never charged a fee for providing and delivering cannabis to patients, and all the cannabis is donated. With no revenue to cover the taxes, the law that made cannabis available to adults across California effectively put compassionate care collectives out of business.
Former San Francisco Supervisor and State Senator Scott Weiner recognized that compassionate businesses had inadvertently fallen through the cracks of this groundbreaking legislation. His new bill, SB 34, would remove the onerous taxes on compassionate cannabis giveaways, allowing programs like Sweetleaf to continue providing free cannabis to terminally ill, indigent patients.
“Lives are on the line,” stated Sweetleaf founder Joe Airone, better known as Sweetleaf Joe. “Compassionate cannabis needs a legal avenue to be able to continue. If our patients do not have access to this medicine, their health deteriorates rapidly. This issue must be rectified immediately. SB 34 will save compassion. It needs to be passed.”
Friday’s launch party at EVB in downtown Oakland coincides with The Compassionate Cannabis Holiday, which is February 15. Joining Senator Weiner will be several longtime compassionate care providers, veterans groups, patients, and cannabis activists.