Free Medical Cannabis Bill Back in Legislature

State Sen. Scott Wiener will reintroduce the tax-free ‘compassionate care’ cannabis for low-income patients proposal that Gov. Brown vetoed.

Free charity cannabis comes at a steep cost. Low-income patients who get free “compassionate care” marijuana products for medical conditions are still charged the 25 percent sales and excise tax on it, and growers, manufacturers, and transporters pay steep taxes on donated charity weed too.

In the past, State Sen. Scott Wiener tried to eliminate those taxes with his compassionate care bill SB 829, which cruised through the statehouse but got smoked by Gov. Brown’s veto. On Thursday morning, Wiener held court at a San Francisco dispensary to announce he’s reintroducing the exact same tax-free compassionate care bill.

The difference this time? It will go before a different governor if it passes, as the way more pro-cannabis Gavin Newsom will be sworn in this January.

Wiener told press at the SPARC dispensary Thursday morning that he’s planning to declare he’s planting the seeds of SB 829 again. “On Monday when the legislature reconvenes, we’ll be introducing a new bill,” he said. “We don’t have a number, we’ll have that Monday.”

Some compassion programs, like SPARC’s, still do provide free compassionate cannabis to patients. But the tax burden is enormous.

“Last year we gave away over 100 pounds of cannabis,” noted Sweetleaf Collective founder Joe Airone. “This year we’ve been told that the people holding the permits would have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to make this happen. This is incredibly cost-prohibitive.”

The bill’s co-author, State Sen. Nancy Skinner (D-Berkeley), pointed out that cannabis is unique among medicines in that it is taxed. “We are making a distinction that just like we don’t pay taxes on prescription medicine, we should not tax medical cannabis,” she said.

It’s also an inconsistent tax; as patient Steven Stevens pointed out, “They even give out free methadone without taxes.”

With a new governor on the way, Wiener is hopeful. After all, this is the exact same bill that passed the state assembly and the state Senate earlier this year.

“It got close to unanimous support in both houses, ranging from people like me and Sen. Skinner to some very conservative Republicans,” he said. “It’s not a controversial bill.”

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