Pubdate: Wed, 18 Jan 2017
Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer (WA)
Copyright: 2017 Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Contact: P.O. Box 1909, Seattle, WA 98111-1909


[photo] Cannabis from Stagecoach Ranch is seen on display during an event
at Harvest, a medical marijuana dispensary in the Inner Richmond District,
in San Francisco, Calif., on Saturday, November 19, 2016.

SACRAMENTO - California lawmakers want to make it easier for marijuana
dispensaries to pay their taxes, saying many cash-only businesses are
forced to drive long distances with thousands of dollars to make an
in-person payment.

That's clearly not safe, said state Sens. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco,
and Toni Atkins, D-San Diego, who introduced a bill Tuesday to increase
the number of places where tax and fee payments can be made in California.

The bill comes as the state prepares to take in hundreds of millions more
in taxes and licensing revenue when retail operations go into effect next
year under the recreational pot legalization initiative Proposition 64.

"We should not force them to drive hundreds of miles with a trunkful of
cash just to comply with the law," Wiener said in a statement.

"While California can't change the federal government's dysfunctional
treatment of cannabis, we can work to ensure that our business owners here
in California can easily and efficiently comply with our laws in a safe
and efficient manner."

Under the bill, state agencies, local tax collectors and counties could
accept tax and fee payments from marijuana businesses.

Many fees collected by the state now have to be paid in Sacramento if the
payment is in cash. Taxes paid in cash have to be paid at one of 22 Board
of Equalization offices in the state.

Most dispensaries are cash-only enterprises, in part due to few banks
wanting to accept their business. Marijuana remains illegal under federal
law, and banks have to jump through significant hoops to accept business
from the industry. Instead, many banks choose not to offer financial
services to marijuana businesses.

Nate Bradley, executive director of the California Cannabis Industry
Association, said the banking issue remains a top concern, but providing
more areas in the state where cash tax payments can be made "will help to
reduce the risks and ensure that the state is paid the money it is owed."

The Board of Equalization - which is the state's tax collector - takes in
around $40 million in sales taxes each year from the medical marijuana
industry. In the case of large dispensaries, tax payments made in cash can
be upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Under the bill - which is being called the Cannabis Safe Payment Act -
local governments could choose to participate with approval from their
county board of supervisors and their local tax collector so that area
dispensaries have a nearby option for making their tax payments.

"Driving around the state with bags of cash is not the safest method of
paying your taxes, but it's generally the only way the cannabis industry
can pay what they owe until we can bank the industry," said Fiona Ma, the
Board of Equalization chairwoman, who is working with Wiener and Atkins on
the bill.
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