One of the many predicted benefits of regulating marijuana is to allow police to focus on solving violent crimes, and an investigation into the Oakland Police Department shows just how imperative that focus is. In 2012, OPD solved only 28% of homicides, a figure that is largely due to an incredible backup of untested evidence. The OPD’s crime lab has yet to test evidence pertaining to 659 homicide cases, some of which are 10 years old. Furthermore, the crime lab has no idea which of the cases with outstanding evidence have even been adjudicated or closed, meaning cases are being settled before the evidence has even been tested.
What makes all of this even more outrageous is that the OPD crime lab has processed evidence for 95% of all suspected drug cases within 24 hours of receiving it and has no backlog of evidence for drug cases. They have prioritized drugs over murder.
There is no excuse for allowing homicide evidence to go untested while pouring precious resources into testing evidence for every single drug case. We need to focus the resources of our criminal justice system on violent crimes.
As part of the federal government’s escalating efforts to shut down the medical marijuana industry, the IRS is claiming that Harborside Health Center, an Oakland dispensary that is thought by many to represent the best practices in the industry, owes them roughly $2.5 million in back taxes. The reason for this is that during the audit, the IRS would not let Harborside deduct many of its business expenses.
Most of these expenses were for things that all other legitimate businesses are allowed to deduct, such as rent and payroll. They were, however, allowed to deduct the actual marijuana being given to patients. The reason for all this is Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code, which basically allows the IRS to fully tax any group it considers a drug trafficking organization. This is mostly used to snare actual drug traffickers for tax evasion, much like the way Al Capone was finally arrested. Criminal kingpins are not known for filing taxes and reporting their illicit income.
The IRS claims that Harborside, and all other dispensaries, are criminal organizations, so they can’t make any of the deductions other businesses make. But they will still take the money. Many are worried that this will destroy the industry by making it impossible for most dispensaries to afford to stay in business.
MPP is currently pushing a pair of bills through Congress that would remove this threat to patients and providers, as well as allow banks to do business with dispensaries without fear of federal prosecution.
While we’re waiting for Congress to act on these bills (and it may take a while), feel free to contact the IRS and tell them that tax-paying medical marijuana businesses are legitimate and should be treated as such. They are not drug dealers.
Here’s the number: 1-800-829-4933
Over the weekend, the Oakland Tribune reported that law enforcement officers at Oakland International Airport follow an official written policy of respecting California's medical marijuana laws. Qualified medical marijuana patients traveling out of Oakland are not arrested or cited for possession of eight ounces or less of processed marijuana. In fact, patients are allowed to board their plane with their marijuana just as they could with any other legal medicine or prescription drug.
The policy was enacted after an intensive local lobbying campaign by Robert Raich, one of California's preeminent attorneys specializing in medical marijuana law. Although the federal government continues to criminalize medical marijuana, Raich points out that federal regulations restricting marijuana possession aboard an aircraft provide an exception if it is "authorized by or under any Federal or State statute."
Airport security screenings are conducted by the federal Transportation Security Administration, but passengers in possession of marijuana and other drugs are deferred to the Alameda County Sheriff's Department, which applies the favorable policy.
Hopefully all the airports in California -- and 12 other medical marijuana states -- will follow Oakland's lead so that even more patients will be able to travel without fear of persecution.
Yesterday, voters in Oakland, California overwhelmingly approved a proposal, backed by the city's medical marijuana community, that will create a new local sales tax for marijuana. The initiative, "Measure F," was one of four budget-related measures in a vote-by-mail special election called by a city faced with a projected budget deficit of $83 million.
Medical marijuana collectives teamed up with city officials to propose the new tax, set at 1.8% of gross sales. The tax is expected to generate close to $300,000 for the city next year.
It's not every day that an industry stands up and says "tax us more." MPP commends Oakland's four medical marijuana collectives for stepping up to the plate and helping the bridge the city's budget gap.
This is the first time a municipality has levied a special tax on marijuana. For now, the tax will only apply to medical marijuana collectives, but once adult marijuana use is legal in California, it will apply to all sales.
A similar movement to tax medical marijuana sales is also underway in Los Angeles.