American experts are looking to our northern neighbor, Canada, and its roll out of a similar Marijuana program. Unregulated at first, law enforcement and local governments soon stepped in to regulate. Canada began controlling its system of sales and who could grow with companies like Tweed Marijuana.
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Canada’s standardization of medical marijuana created an environment where bigger business models and more legitimate producers would thrive while small-scale operations suffered. This is believed to be better for the overall industry as this standardization process calmed law enforcement and local governments, legitimized medical marijuana and boosted sales. $3.1 billion in annual tax revenue will be generated this year through the Canadian medical marijuana industry. Industry analysts believe that tax revenue and sales in the United States could be even higher. Prof. Mark Kleiman of UCLA was recently hired by Washington State’s Liquor Control Board to study the state’s marijuana market. Washington State has legalized both medical and recreational marijuana. Professor Kleiman estimates that $1.2 billion was generated through the state’s medical and previously illegal marijuana trade each year.
Colorado recently legalized marijuana for medical and recreational purposes and has already generated $2 million in tax revenue. Both states have moved to formalize, regulate and feed the state coffers from this new industry. Twenty two other states now allow medical marijuana and three have allowed non-psychoactive cannabidoil (C.B.D.) oil to be used for extreme epilepsy.
Though the Obama administration has had a wait and see policy, saying it won’t conduct raids or prosecutions, marijuana still remains a schedule I controlled substance. This classifies is an extremely dangerous substance . The federal government has said it will require “a tightly regulated market” in order to lay off states safeguard federal “enforcement priorities”, such as keeping it away from minors, finding and neutralizing smuggling operations.
One of the biggest stumbling blocks is the tax issue. According to the IRS legal dispensaries can’t get tax deductions. They also say they can only enforce the tax code as it was written by congress. A marijuana industry trade memo states, “The federal tax situation is the biggest threat to businesses and could push the entire industry underground.”
One way dispensaries plan to offset this is to write-off other services they provide, such as care-giving. One piece of legislation thought to undo the problem is the Marijuana Tax Equity Act; which could end the federal government’s prohibition on cannabis, while also allowing an excise tax on its sale and an annual occupational tax for workers who are growing or gathering it.