Op-ed: Capitalism is Killing Cannabis


If you’ve been paying attention to any of the recent news in cannabis, and clearly you have if you’re reading this article, you’re starting to notice an ever growing trend. Headline after headline of businesses letting go of workers, dispensaries shuttering their doors, projected profits nowhere near what was initially anticipated. No matter where you look, the initial green rush of the cannabis industry in places where it has become recreational legal… is no longer a rush. It’s a slow crawl. 

Of course, in new markets, there will always be room for improvement. Cannabis, at least in the legal regard, is a brand new market – despite being grown and used for 100s of 1000s of years. There are a ton of layers to peel back when it comes to what got us to where we are in cannabis. 

  • The inherent inequity of the cannabis industry.
  • The irony of how many people are still in prison for cannabis related crimes, despite living in states that are now free to sell it in retail shops.
  • The fact that legalized cannabis, in a large portion of instances, actually made it more illegal.

But those are stories for another time. 

No matter which layer you peel, there seems to be a root to it all. A root that so many cannabis activists warned about when recreational marijuana was first brought to the ballot. The minute cannabis is legalized, the minute it becomes taxed, regulated, and monitored by an entity that functions as one of the largest profit churning systems in the country. 

While that may seem like an opinion, it also seems to be backed up by facts. According to the California Cannabis Industry Association, growers and wholesalers mention the steep excise taxes (15% in California, though it fluctuates depending on state) as being a major part of the problem – and those excise taxes are on top of whatever state taxes they are charged. The CCIA says that these taxes directly relate to the “illicit” market being able to come in at a lower cost and, no pun intended, weed out the competition. 

Did we know it was a possibility? Sure. The states who have legalized cannabis have made no qualms about making us aware of the motives from the beginning. Local governments saw it as a financial boon where the taxes generated would plug into their budgets and create new programs that they were unable to previously budget for – and all that, in theory, is great. But when those same local governments immediately go for the highest cash grab they can off an industry that is so young it couldn’t even smoke the cannabis that it sells, then a problem is created. With state tax, excise tax, the cost of growing and the cost that it takes to constantly upkeep a business, cannabis is drowning.

If cannabis wants to survive, then state governments are going to have to be the one that make the sacrifice. By taking about two steps back from the core of capitalism, and offering something they don’t usually offer their residents. 

A break. 

More specifically. 

A tax break. 

Plus, I feel like there was a party, with a bunch of people throwing stuff over a boat the last time someone got really upset about taxes, right? I could be wrong. One thing I’m not wrong about? Capitalism is killing cannabis. 

Or at least, that’s my opinion. . 

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Chicana journalist, editor, educator, and organizer in Sacramento whose sole focus is to shed light on stories on our most impacted and marginalized communities, but even more importantly, for those stories to humanize those normally left out. She is an Ida B Wells Investigative Journalism Fellow 2022 Finalist, a member of the Parenting Journalists Society, and has bylines in The Courier, The Sacramento Bee, The Americano, Submerge Magazine among others.

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