Because state governments across the United States are forever increasing taxes on marijuana business, with Massachusetts the latest victim of tax hikes, consumers are bound to feel the effects. For now, tax regulation mostly focuses on recreational weed, but if officials succeed in merging the two industries as planned in all legal states nationwide, medical cannabis will endure the same or similar fate very quickly.
Some states are charging as much as 20 percent in marijuana taxes. Nobody is exempt and everybody feels the pinch, including cultivators, distributors, and retailers. The effect on consumers is a staggering increase in marijuana price as companies scramble to cover costs and still pay tax. What does this mean for medical marijuana patients in California? Not much yet, but if prices continue to rise, well then:
Increased Financial Worry
Medical patients carry the biggest financial burden of all. Their medical bills are usually exorbitant, with physician’s fees, hospital stays, health insurance, equipment, diet, and sometimes more. The added cost of a hike in marijuana price may just be too much for some of them to bear. Many already rely on discounts, coupons, and other deals to afford their medicine, and dispensaries already keep prices low.
Return to Black Market
If medical marijuana patients can no longer afford to buy from a marijuana dispensary in Beverly Hills, they will return to the illegal drug market. This is counterproductive to the whole cannabis legalization effort, and there is no guarantee that patients will receive quality cannabis when buying from a local dealer around the corner. In fact, they are more likely to get low-grade weed, which is not effective for medical purposes.
Heightened Safety Risks
Despite the risk of buying the useless pot to treat yourself, there are several other safety concerns, as well. Finding local dealers can expose patients to dangerous situations and criminals. Many of these locations are dodgy at best, and entering these areas is at risk to your life. In a potentially bad scenario, those with flailing health can suffer severe complications, such as heart attacks and anxiety.
Potential Criminal Targeting
Those that can still afford to buy their medicine from a licensed dispensary may become targets of criminal gangs scouting these facilities. If demand for illegal trade rises, so does its value in the market. They may rob and assault patients leaving these premises, and there is increased risk that criminals may conduct armed robberies on establishments themselves, putting patients inside into immediate danger.
The effects of increasing marijuana prices will be catastrophic for many patients, especially the severely ill who depend heavily on large quantities of cannabis to treat their afflictions. When people cannot afford their medicine, they will turn to other avenues of access that provide cheaper solutions for them. The state may make money by taxing weed to death, but consumers are the ones who ultimately suffer.