California Taxes Keeping Cannabis Consumers In The Black Market

Despite the overwhelming majority of Californians being happy with the legal cannabis market, there is still a significant percentage of residents who buy marijuana illegally, due in large part to high taxes on the substance.

A new report from Eaze Insights shows that 84 percent of Californians are “satisfied” with the legal marijuana market, but approximately 20 percent have purchased illegal or illicit marijuana in the past three months. Concerning to regulators and the state’s finances is that 84 percent of that segment of the population is “highly likely to repeat that behavior in the future due to the illicit market having cheaper products and no tax.”

Part of the concern is that although consumers would like to purchase marijuana legally if, given the option, the taxes are a major concern for many consumers. According to the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, marijuana has a 15 percent excise tax, though recent reports have suggested the state is looking at cutting taxes as a way of driving legal means of consumption.

Approximately 85 percent of Californians have purchased cannabis from “unlicensed sources,” but most of them cited factors such as lower prices and a lack of taxes for the reasons those purchases were made.

Other consumers say they have purchased from illegal marijuana vendors because it’s “hard and time-consuming” to find legal businesses. Approximately 1 in 7 respondents said it was “not easy to identify licensed cannabis businesses.”

Although the picture has been painted with some negative brushes, there are changes that can be made that will positively affect California’s burgeoning weed economy.

If taxes were decreased by 5 percent, that could drive much of the illegal market into the legal market, Eaze notes. The town of Berkley took that initiative early on when it lowered its city tax on cannabis from 10% to 5%.

“A 5% decrease in the overall tax rate in CA could bring twice as many CA consumers to only purchase cannabis from licensed businesses (from 16% to 32%),” Eaze wrote in an email obtained by Green Market Report. “Conversely, a 5% increase in the overall tax rate in CA would drive twice as many CA consumers to only purchase from unlicensed businesses (12% to 23%).”

Use cases in the state include wellness (treating or coping with illnesses such as cancer) and consumers are increasingly becoming more sophisticated in the types of cannabis they consume.

“They care the most about consistent product quality,  fair pricing, packaging, safe access and a great customer experience, the same way they care about those things for more traditional consumer products,” the email obtained by GMR said.

Jack Smith

Jack Smith

Jack Smith is a tech reporter that dabbles in cannabis reporting to help out his good friends at GMR.


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