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California cultivators to rally at state Capitol

Farmers to hold press conference in defense of their communities


In a plea response to what many in the community consider an unfair State regulatory structure and an increase to an already punishing cultivation tax rate, a group of farmers and thought leaders from the California Cannabis community will hold a #NODRUGWARV2 press conference on the steps of the California State Capitol at 11 a.m. on Thursday, January 13, in order to deliver a message to Governor Gavin Newsom and his fellow policymakers.

“For 40+ years, Black and Brown people, as well as Emerald Triangle legacy farmers, were locked up and denied freedoms for the same activity that is enriching the purse strings of many cannabis corporations today,” said activist and co-organizer Amber E. Senter in a press release. Senter works with of Supernova Women, a nonprofit that strives to empower Black and Brown people to become self-sufficient shareholders in the cannabis space. “Not only has the State fallen short on its promise to right the wrongs inflicted upon minority communities by the War on Drugs, but it has also perpetuated regressive War on Drugs 2.0 policies through oppressive taxation, which has to end.”

Senter and Supernova Women are teaming up with Genine Coleman and the Origins Council, a nonprofit organization that represents and advocates for cannabis businesses in California’s historic farming regions, to outline actions that the California State Legislature must take before its July 1, 2022 budget deadline. They expect more than 50 farmers to speak out against the cultivation tax rate increase at the event.

“Our legacy cannabis farmers are pioneers who deserve to be protected and exalted,” said Genine Coleman in the press release.  “Thousands of small family-owned licensed cannabis farms across rural California are faced with a catastrophic collapse of the wholesale market, no pathway for direct to consumer sales, and in some cases tens of thousands of dollars in outstanding environmental compliance costs. Without the urgent elimination of the cultivation tax, we will see hundreds of these families abandoning their dreams, closing their farms, selling their land and leaving their beloved communities over this next year. Cannabis is the fifth most valuable crop in the U.S. according to a report by Leafly, and yet it remains the sole agricultural product in the nation taxed at cultivation.”

Rally speakers in order of appearance include, according to the release: Amber Senter, chairperson and executive director of Supernova Women; Assembly Member Mia Bonta (18th District); Genine Coleman of Origins Council;  Kika Keith of Gorilla RX Wellness and 1st Black female dispensary owner in Los Angeles; John Casali of Huckleberry Hills Farm; Chaney Turner of Oakland’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission; Raeven Duckett-Robinson of Community Gardens;  Casey O’Neill of HappyDay Farms; Henry Alston of James Henry SF; Sam De La Paz of the Hessel Farmers Grange; Malakai Amen of the California Urban Partnership; Karla Avila of Trinity County Agriculture Alliance; Carlton Williams of New Life CA; and Sen. Steve Bradford (35th District). Senter concludes the day’s remarks.

“I used to sell our Huckleberry Hill Farm sungrown cannabis for around $1,400 a pound,” said Johnny Casali, a multi-generational legacy cultivator who served more than 8 years of a 10 year sentence for cultivating Cannabis before building a respected legal Cannabis brand in Humboldt after his release. “Because of overproduction and the lack of market access, it has brought the value down to $3-400 per pound, depending on quality, and I’m paying 53% cultivation tax at $161.28 per pound. After the cost of production, I’m in the red. I hope that with this rally, the legislators will see the small farmer as I do – as a rare, phenomenal group of hard-working, family farmers who worship the land, who are die-hard environmentalists, and who were taught by their parents and grandparents how to grow the best cannabis in the world with little to no carbon footprint. We are worth saving.”

Photos by @theemeraldcup

About Tom Bowers

Tom Bowers is in this with all of you.

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