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  • Alexander Bencore

Are Cannabis Taxes a Piggybank for Police?

At last, some good news about cannabis taxes:


The State of Arizona is on a roll… during its first year the state “… took in more than $215 million last year on combined taxes of both adult use and medical marijuana

All that tax money is good news for Maricopa County, which is the county around Phoenix and Scottsdale. “Maricopa County Community College District received $17.1 million from the state’s cannabis excise tax. The district said it has earmarked $7.6 million of the funds toward 35 career-specific training programs, with focuses including beauty and wellness, healthcare, and trades and technology.”

“The district said community colleges get the most funding from the tax at 33%...


The other big cannabis tax story is California, of course. Small farmers are begging for cultivation taxes to be lowered, Humboldt County has already reduced a key tax; and we’re waiting to hear what Governor Gavin Newsom does. Considering the state already jacks about $1 Billion a year from cannabis businesses and keeps the taxes so high generally that the illicit market is reportedly larger than the legal market…

And then there’s that weird twist that was reported by Jason last week: As reported in NBC News: Jim Keddy, executive director of the advocacy organization Youth Forward, and others have warned Governor Newsom ‘that "if the industry is successful in persuading state leaders to lower, suspend and/or eliminate the tax rates approved by voters in Proposition 64, we will see an immediate, negative impact on thousands of children living in poverty and children of color across our state."

So that sucks… who wants to choose between hurting kids and hurting farmers?

…Or is that NOT the only choice?

Remember when I said that in Maricopa County, 33% of the tax revenue goes to community colleges? According to the 2020 study by the Public Health Institute [called,California Cannabis Tax Revenues: A Windfall for Law Enforcement or an Opportunity for Healing Communities?"]

In California under Prop 64, “new revenues such as those from cannabis that go into the general fund end up heavily benefiting the police. On average, for the 28 cities in the study, police spending represented 39% of general fund spending.”

The Cannabis tax money going to police smells like this:

  • 62% to police in Cloverdale in Sonoma County

  • 59% to police in Woodlake in Tulare County

  • 51% in Modesto… etc.

Between 2016 and 2020, 23 of the 28 cities we researched experienced

  • … double-digit increases in the amount of general fund dollars going …to police.

  • the average increase in police budgets of 19%

  • In just those 23 cities, over $455 mil­lion more in general fund dollars was spent on police in 2019-20 than was spent just three years earlier.”

And by the way, what exactly are these tax dollars funding in California? MORE POLICE UNITS DEDICATED TO PUNISHING CITIZENS FOR THE MISTAKES AND CATCH-22s OF CANNABIS REGULATION, which created too many growers, too few retail outlets, too-high taxes, ridiculous regulations on hemp (0.3% THC is random and meaningless)... I could go on and on...

"Moreover, beyond the 28 cities highlighted above, jurisdictions all across the state are pouring resources into specialized law enforcement units dedicated to cannabis enforcement. For example, Sacramento created a unit of 15 new officers dedicated to unlicensed cannabis. Working with SWAT teams, they raid suspected unlicensed cannabis grows across the city. There are many similar (and often well-staffed and highly-resourced) law enforcement units across the state, including:

  • Santa Clara County: Marijuana Eradication Team

  • San Luis Obispo: Cannabis Regulations Unit

  • San Jose: Division of Cannabis Regulation

  • Santa Barbara County: Cannabis Compliance Team

  • San Bernardino County: Marijuana Enforcement Team

  • Los Angeles is directing millions of dollars per year in cannabis revenues to the police “overtime fund” where it is used for “investigating and enforcing laws relative to illegal cannabis businesses” among others.


In my mind, the tax problem is not for children or against farmers… it’s against the most bloated, HammerStriking, anti-vaxxing, white supremacist organization of all… the police.

And if you’re butt-hurt because I said white supremacist, here’s another quote from the Public Health Institute:

Plus, while the enforcement of cannabis laws has always been concentrated within communities of color, it has become even more so in recent years. People of color represented 68% of cannabis arrests in 2013, but by 2018 that had risen to 75% (though with far fewer cannabis arrests in total)."

These problems are much bigger than taxes.


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