Bill to Reduce California Cannabis Taxes Reintroduced in State Legislature

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Last week, Assembly Bill 286 was introduced by Assembly Member Rob Bonta which would eliminate California’s cannabis cultivation tax and reduce the excise tax from 15% to 11% through 2022. The measure is a reintroduction of a similar bill from last year, AB 3157, which would have also temporarily reduced California’s cannabis tax rate.

Supporters of the temporary tax reduction argue that California’s high tax rate on cannabis makes it almost impossible for legal operators to compete against illicit operations. Opponents of the reduction say that it is premature and that the real problem lies at the local level where more than half of the state’s local jurisdictions have refused to allow cannabis business activity. In addition, education and mental health groups believe that the tax reduction will delay and/or reduce much need funding to support youth drug prevention and equity programs in communities that were impacted the most by the war on drugs. Discussions on funding these vital programs will heat up in May after the Department of Finance has a clearer picture of tax revenues generated from cannabis.

In a committee hearing on AB 3157 last year, committee members expressed concern over the state’s ability to repay the outstanding loan of $135 million that was provided to state agencies to fund enforcement and oversight. In Governor Newsom’s first budget released in January, more than $200 million was allocated to cannabis enforcement and oversight. How much of that is a General Fund loan that will need to be repaid and how much pressure this creates to maintain the current tax rate is to be seen. Stay tuned.


If you have questions about the budget process or AB 286, please contact me at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

California Governor Gavin Newsom’s First Budget Estimates $514 Million in Cannabis Tax Revenue and Includes Millions in Enforcement

On Thursday, Gavin Newsom released his first budget as California’s Governor. The budget – totaled at $209 billion including special funds – estimates California’s cannabis excise tax will generate $514 million in revenues for 2019-20. This estimate is significantly lower than the $630 million anticipated in last year’s budget.

Governor Newsom’s budget includes $200 million for statewide enforcement, licensing and oversight over the industry. During the Q&A session, the Governor said that this budget allocation would support expedited licensing to ensure businesses are able to enter the legal market in a timely manner. In addition, the Governor stated that his Administration would be very engaged in cannabis-related policy, including policies that impact licensing at the local level.

The budget also includes $2.9 million in additional funds for California’s tax collection agency to increase tax compliance within the cannabis industry. This should come as welcomed news for licensed businesses that are struggling to compete against non-licensed and compliant entities.

Although the budget anticipates nearly half a billion in revenues, funding for Proposition 64 related programs is put on hold until the May Revise. The budget also acknowledges that the outstanding loan made by the state to establish California’s enforcement and oversight capabilities would be paid first in addition to funding the various programs required by the proposition.

In the coming weeks, the Legislature will review the Governor’s budget in greater detail.


The release of the Governor’s budget sets in motion the Legislature’s detailed review over the coming months. If you have questions related to the 2019-20 budget, or want to learn more about California’s budget process, please contact ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

What Is The Economic and Social Impact of the Federal Ban on Cannabis? Congressional Democrats Release Short Report Describing the Barriers and Opportunities

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This week, the Democrat staff of the Congressional Joint Economic Committee issued a short report highlighting the economic benefits of the national cannabis economy.

The report highlights what many in the industry and public already know – support for the legalization of adult-use is at an all-time high across the country. While over 30 states have moved towards some form of legal use, the federal ban continues to present significant barriers to the industry’s growth. Some interesting points made in the report include:

  • 66% of Americans support legalization of adult-use, up from just 12% in 1969.
  • Industry sales totaled  more than $8 billion in 2017
  • Sales industry wide are estimated to reach $11 billion in 2019, and $23 billion by 2022
  • There were over 9,000 active cannabis business licenses in 2017, with the industry employing more than 120,000 people

With the positive economic and job growth created by the industry, significant barriers created by the federal ban exist. I would add here that in California, the ability of local jurisdictions to prohibit cannabis business activity is an additional barrier. Among the many challenges created by the federal ban, the report highlights the following:

  • A lack of basic financial services available to cannabis business creates security issues, as well as general barriers to paying for basic business expenses, i.e. employee salaries, rent, etc
  • The federal ban has created an unfair advantage for non-cannabis/illicit businesses over legal ones. Section 280E prohibits cannabis business from deducting ordinary business expenses, creating an estimated tax rate of 40% – 70%; more than twice the average non-cannabis business tax
  • The ban also creates a barrier to acquiring financial capital to start or grow a cannabis-based business
  • Finally, the ban continues to restrict patient access to medicine that has proven to effective in treating a variety of ailments and illnesses

The report goes on to discuss the social impacts of cannabis that is well worth reading, and ends on this note:

“The growth of the cannabis economy presents opportunities for greater job creation, more tax revenue, and better patient care. But current conflicts between state and federal law threaten to impede social and economic growth. Going forward, lawmakers and regulators should prioritize solutions that promote greater research into the health effects of cannabis and reduce regulations that restrict the industry’s ability to conduct business.”

What are your thoughts on the report?


Do you have questions related to economic impact of the cannabis industry? Do you want to know how to share this information in an effective way before legislators and decision-makers? Contact Ashley at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com to discuss.

How to Write an Effective Letter to Your Representative

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Over the last few weeks, I have had several conversations with businesses, individuals, and organizations that are interested in engaging in the legislative and rulemaking process in 2019. Writing a letter to your representative is an easy and effective ways to communicate your support or concerns on a specific budget item, piece of legislation, or on a proposed rule. Here are some tips that can help you write a constructive letter to your elected official.

Step One: Research the Bill or Budget Proposal

When you have identified a budget item, bill or rule that may potential impact your business, the first step before writing a letter is to conduct preliminary research. In California, information related to the state’s budget can be located on the State’s Department of Finance (DOF) website. This site contains valuable information, including the budget change proposal (BCP) from which the budget item originated, and a summary and detailed overview of the proposal.

In addition to the DOF, each house of the California State Legislature has their own budget committee that is divided into several subcommittees. These subcommittees will review each item from the Governor’s budget in depth and their analysis can serve as another source of helpful information.

Background information related to all legislation introduced in California can be found by searching the California Legislative Information website. To locate a bill, type in the bill number or the bill author’s name, if you know it, in the “Quick Bill Search” box and click search. This will bring up the bill language, current status, history, analysis, and vote records, if any.

Helpful Hint: A bill in most cases never remains the same throughout the legislative process. When researching a bill, check for amendments. You might be find that the bill you are about to write a letter on has been significantly changed or no longer active!

Step Two: Find Your Legislator

Once you have background information on the bill or budget item, the next step is to look up your legislator and their contact information. California’s Secretary of State provides information on its website on how to find your federal and state representatives. Local elected officials can be found by visiting your local county registrar’s website.

Insider Tip: Legislators and their staff receive hundreds if not thousands of requests, phone calls and emails a day. Most offices prefer to receive letters by email or fax. Before you send your letter, call ahead and ask what method the office prefers to receive position letters. Remember: be courteous to the person that answers the phone; not only is it the right thing to do, but the person on the other line is most likely an intern or legislative aide that is still learning the process too!

Step Three: Write the Letter

Now that you have researched the bill and have your legislator’s information, it is time to write the letter. Below are tips on how to write an effective letter through the various stages of the legislative process.

Newly Introduced Bill

A letter on newly introduced bills is used to share your opinion and/or concerns with your legislator regarding a bill before it has been assigned to a policy committee. As a reminder, a good understanding of what the bill does (review the bill text and any supporting documents, i.e. fact sheets, informational hearing agendas, etc.) is important at this stage. Writing a letter early in the process is important because it helps the legislator identify early support/opposition, and may identify concerns the Assembly Member or Senator may not have considered.

Important Tips When Writing Your Letter

  • Properly address the letter to your legislator.
  • Clearly state your position, and the bill number.
  • Use your own words to state your position and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Be professional and courteous. This is a formal letter to an elected official.
  • End the letter with a statement on how you would like your representative to respond, and request a follow up.

Policy and Fiscal Committee Letters

Committee letters are extremely important in the legislative process. You can find out which committee the bill will be heard in by searching for the bill on the California Legislative Information website and viewing the status of the bill. Under status, locate “Committee Location” to find which committee the bill has been assigned.

Make sure the Chair and all of the committee members receive a copy of your letter, as well as the lead committee consultant on the issue.

Important Tips

  • Properly address the letter to the Committee Chair.
  • Clearly state your position, the bill number and author of the bill.
  • Use your own words to state your opinion and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Ask the committee chair to support or oppose the bill.

 Floor Alert

Floor letters can reinforce your support or opposition on a bill when it is scheduled to be heard by the entire Assembly or Senate on Floor. By now, the bill has made its way through at least one policy committee and if the bill appropriates funds, the Appropriations Committee. At this stage, it may be helpful to review committee votes and mention whether the bill passed the committee with unanimous, bipartisan, or very little support. To review vote ballots, find the bill on California Legislative Information website and select the “Votes” link for the appropriate committee.

Important Tips

  • Address the letter to entire membership of the House.
  • Clearly state your position, the bill number and author of the bill.
  • Use your own words to state your opinion and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Highlight committee votes (bipartisan, unanimous or little support)
  • Ask the legislators to support or oppose the bill.

Letter to the Governor

If a bill you support made it all the way to the Governor’s desk: congratulations!  If you did not support it, do not fret: the process is not over, yet. Even if a bill had unanimous support through the legislative process, the Governor may have a different viewpoint. Letters urging the Governor sign  or veto legislation are as equally important as your first letter.

Important Tips

  • Address the letter to the Governor.
  • Clearly state your position, the bill number and author of the bill.
  • Use your own words to state your opinion and/or concerns.
  • Be constructive and brief.
  • Highlight committee/floor votes (bipartisan, unanimous or little support)
  • Ask the Governor to sign or veto the bill.
Ready to Write Your Letter?

If you would like more information or help writing your letter? please contact me at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

7 Simple Ways to Improve Your Public Testimony Before Boards, Commissions, and the Legislature

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With legislative bodies across the country preparing to convene for the upcoming 2019 legislative session, now is the time to prepare to engage in that process. One way to engage in this process is by providing comment or testimony at a public hearing. This method of engagement is one of the most simple and effective ways to communicate your position on an issue that affects your business, community, family, or industry.

However, many people have a fear of speaking in public or lack the basic skills to deliver an effective message. Below are 7 tips to help immediately improve your public testimony skills that you can use before elective officials and rulemakers.

1. Prepare an outline, not a script. If there is one way to ensure your elected officials’ eyes glaze over during your public comment, its to read your talking points or testimony word-for-word. Instead of writing a script, outline the all of the points that you like to cover and then simplify that list to the top 2-3 strongest points. Use these points as the basis for your testimony.

2. Practice. The process of speaking in public is terrifying for most. In fact, the fear of public speaking ranks higher than death for some people! Testifying in front of a panel elected officials can be absolutely terrifying, and practicing ahead of time can go a long way towards reducing this anxiety and fear. An important tip to remember when practicing is to limit your testimony to approximately two minutes or less. In special circumstances, legislative committees will allow for longer public comment, but this is usually an exception, not the rule. Using your outline, practice refining your public comment out loud and in front of the mirror, if possible.

3. Don’t practice too much. While practice can help polish your testimony, over-preparing can also have a negative impact on the delivery of your speech. The most common drawback to over-preparing is that the delivery of the comment starts to sound robotic. The goal is to practice, not memorize your lines or outline.

4. Identify Yourself. It’s the day of the hearing and you have your outline ready and have spent time practicing your testimony. This may sound silly, but in the heat of the moment it is easy to forget to identify yourself, the organization you represent (if any) and your position, if relevant, at the start of your testimony. I’ve seen it happen multiple times where the person forgets to identify themselves, makes their speech, and leaves the podium without any information as to who they are. Remember to identify yourself first.

5. Keep it Short and Sweet. Although this was covered above, it bears repeating that the average time for most public testimony is 2 minutes or less. On occasion, a board or committee will invite you to participate on a panel and in these instances, they may ask you to provide comments and be available for a period longer than 2 minutes. If you do not receive that invitation, keep it short and sweet.

6. Observe and Listen. Before and after your testimony, observe and listen to others testimony and the comments and questions from the committee members. It’s polite and can also be instructive on how and what the decision-makers are thinking about that particular issue. Actively listen by taking notes.

7. Relax and Enjoy. The opportunity to participate in the policy and rulemaking process is one that many people for a variety of reasons will never experience. Enjoy the opportunity to participate, and if you’re like 98% of people that fear public speaking, after you finish your testimony, give yourself a pat on the back. You overcame your fears and you did it.


If you have questions about the public comment process before public agencies, boards, commissions, and the legislature, please contact ashley@ampublicaffairs.com.

Public Policies for Advocates and Stakeholders to Consider in 2019

Note: This article originally appeared on the site Kannovate – an informational guide to help Activist and citizens keep a pulse on the Cannabis Enlightenments movement throughout the US. To read the full article, please visit Kannovate by clicking here.

Last week, Canada became the second country, after Uruguay, to legalize recreational cannabis. In one week, voters in four states—Michigan, Missouri, North Dakota, and Utah—will decide whether or not to legalize some form of marijuana use. Across the United States, there are currently 30 states that allow some form of cannabis use. If the four ballot measures pass in November, the total number of states that have legalized either medical or recreational use will reach almost 70%, including Washington, D.C.

While these recent developments indicate changing attitudes towards cannabis as a dangerous “drug,” they also present several public policy issues that stakeholders in the industry will need to proactively engage and address in the coming months and years in order to ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.

I have compiled a list of the top seven public policy issues that all stakeholders in the cannabis industry should consider as the move towards full legalization in the United States approaches. My hope is to provide you a glimpse into topics that will be at the forefront in the public policy arena in the coming years, offering you a chance to prepare and plan for your engagement strategy in advance.

Read the full article here…


Questions about the legislative and regulatory landscape in your area? Contact us today to discuss at ashley@ampublicaffairs.com or by the contact form available here.