We are asking for a reprieve from an unjust tax.

We are not asking for a handout; we are asking for our businesses to be treated with respect and normalized. We are asking for a reprieve from an unjust tax.

The market price for wholesale cannabis flower plummeted in the past year. As a result, many farmers could not sell their 2020 crop in the spring and summer of 2021. The wholesale price for cannabis flower in 2021 dropped below most farmers' cost of production. Self-funded cannabis businesses cannot survive two years of deficit profits. The proverbial "pickle barrels of cash" have long since been depleted, having been spent on county land use permitting. And legal cannabis businesses have little to no access to outside capital or bank loans.

When Measure S was written and voted on in 2016, the wholesale price of cannabis was four times higher. However, the cost of producing the product was lower because California had not yet implemented its licensing fees and taxation structures, nor had the expenses of bringing pre-existing cultivation properties into compliance with environmental laws been realized. Measure S is a flat rate tax that does not adjust with market conditions. The rate paid to Measure S increases each year based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for the Bay Area. Since 2017, the CPI for Measure S is now 10% higher than when Measure S was implemented! What was once $1.00 a square foot is now $1.10 a square foot.

Measure S is an entitlement tax. No other agricultural industry or business has to pay simply for the right to operate. In addition to the county cultivation tax, as farmers improved their property through permitting, their lands were reassessed for increased property taxes, which are paid directly to the county. Farmers also pay state, and federal income tax, state cultivation taxes, and all licensing and permitting costs are paid by the applicant. Unlike traditional agricultural industries that received low-cost loans, government subsidies, tax credits, and tax exemptions and were qualified to receive PPP loans and grants this last year, cannabis farmers receive none of those benefits. In addition, cannabis farms are subject to IRS tax code 280E, which prohibits tax write-offs that other businesses receive. Cannabis operators pay taxes on their taxes!

Since 2017, permitted cannabis farmers have paid 80% of Measure S tax bills in full. Our industry has been willing and able to pay taxes to our county that benefit the greater good. To date, more than $47.5 million has been deposited, mostly in cash, to the county's general fund account. We acknowledge the wide variety of benefits that our community receives for mental health services, education, public safety, etc., due to the taxes we've paid.

We are asking our community to give us a break to continue in our efforts to be upstanding and contributing members of our society. The vast majority of Humboldt Cannabis farmers voluntarily stepped out of the "Green Closet" with the hope to become long-term sustainable businesses with a successful future. We are the people who want to live, work, and raise our children here. These farmers are your friends, family, and neighbors, and they love this land just as much as you do. We are not asking for a handout; we are asking for a reprieve. Our industry is at the breaking point. We need the community's help and support.

We are asking for the tax payment from October 2021 and March 15, 2022, to be waived and forgiven. We are then asking for a suspension of Measure S for an additional year, during which time our community can come together and come up with a plan to develop a new tax strategy that is fair and equitable. We are telling you there is no money left. The county cannot squeeze blood from a stone.

And if the county insists on keeping with the status quo and the farmers cannot make the payment, what happens? The farmer's county cultivation permits are in jeopardy, state licenses are in danger, and the farmers' ability to run their businesses legally will not be an option. And then, where are we left? Farmer's defaulting on their mortgages. Are farmers losing their land and homes because they have liens on their property? And no ability to earn a legitimate income? Our industry came into compliance and started the process back in 2015 to remedy the social and environmental circumstances of the past. Yet, here we are six years later, and the experiment is not working; the system is broken, and the people trying the hardest to be good are being punished. We need a remedy and a solution now. The answer is to Suspend Measure S immediately.

Let’s face it. These special taxes were levied exclusively on cannabis because of prohibition. For over 100 years our government has been waging this so-called War on Drugs. Here in Humboldt County we’ve all seen and experienced it on the front lines. Like so many of us in this community, I’ve lived through the years of choppers, CAMP raids, and Operation Green Sweep. But times are changing and most of the world now sees that this “war” has been a massive and disastrous failure. The War on Drugs has failed because it was not born from any genuine concern by the government to protect its citizens from unsafe and dangerous substances. Rather, it was and still is about control and keeping people down. It was about racism. It was about greed, corporate profits, and oppressive ideology.

Cannabis cultivation has been targeted by every fee collecting agency and tax collector out there. We can’t ignore the fact that Measure S is by extension, the Humboldt County government dragging along and perpetuating this outdated old stigma against cannabis that was born out of the War on Drugs. We can’t continue to tax cannabis punitively, and simultaneously expect the farms growing it to survive. This just doesn’t work.

Enough is enough! Stop the over-taxation. End the War on Drugs!