Tips For Cannabis Businesses To Prepare for Tax Season And IRC Sec. 280E

On January 6, 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will process 2019 tax returns beginning January 27, 2020.

April 15th Filing Deadline.

The filing deadline to submit 2019 tax returns is Wednesday, April 15, 2020.

Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on January 27th there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in early January instead of waiting for the IRS to begin accepting e-filed returns.  Nevertheless, it makes sense to start organizing your information early and so when the IRS filing systems open on January 27th, you are ready to submit your tax return right away.

Yes – Cannabis Businesses Have to Report Income To IRS And Pay Taxes!

While the sale of cannabis is legal in California as well as in a growing number of states, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under Federal law, the Controlled Substances Act. As such businesses in the cannabis industry are not treated like ordinary businesses. Despite state laws allowing cannabis, it remains illegal on a federal level but cannabis businesses are obligated to pay federal income tax on income because I.R.C. §61(a) does not differentiate between income derived from legal sources and income derived from illegal sources.

Additionally, while businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under IRC Sec. 162, Under IRC Sec. 280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in cannabis have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

A cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods. For a marijuana reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income.

I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audits

It is no surprise that cannabis businesses are proliferating as more States legalize cannabis and make available licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell cannabis. The IRS recognizes this and it is making these cannabis businesses face Federal income tax audits. IRC Sec. 280E is at the forefront of all IRS cannabis tax audits and enforcement of Sec. 280E could result in unbearable tax liabilities.

Proving deductions to the IRS is a two-step process:

  • First, you must substantiate that you actually paid the expense you are claiming.
  • Second, you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible.

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

For example, if you claim a $5,000 purchase expense from a cannabis distributor, offering a copy of a bill or an invoice from the distributor (if one is even provided) is not enough. It only proves that you owe the money, not that you actually made good on paying the bill. The IRS accepts canceled checks, bank statements and credit card statements as proof of payment. But when such bills are paid in cash as it typical in a cannabis business, you would not have any of these supporting documents but the IRS may accept the equivalent in electronic form.

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

Next you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible. For a cannabis businesses this is challenging because of the I.R.C. §280E limitation; however a cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods.

For a cannabis reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income. You can be sure the IRS agents in audits will be looking closely at what is included in COGS.

Tips For Cannabis Tax Return Preparation

Here are some tips for cannabis businesses to follow in the preparation of their 2019 tax returns.

  • Reconcile Your Books Before Closing Your Books. Incomplete books can cause delays and add unnecessary complexities.
  • Utilize A Cannabis Tax Professional. Engage a tax professional who has experience in the cannabis industry. Such a professional would be familiar with the intricacies of IRC Sec. 280E and relevant cases to make the proper presentation on the tax return in a manner that would support the smaller tax liability possible.
  • Justify Your Numbers As If An IRS Audit Is A Certainty. Don’t wait to receive a notice from IRS that the tax return is selected for examination. That can be one or two years away. Instead make it a point to put together the backup to you numbers now while everything is fresh.

Time Limits For Keeping Your Tax Records

Even though your 2019 income tax return is processed by the IRS and a refund is issued, that does not mean the IRS can later question or audit the tax return,  In fact the Statute Of Limitations allows the IRS three years to go back and audit your tax return.  That is why it’s a good idea to keep copies of your prior-year tax returns and supporting backup documentation for at least three years.

What Should You Do?

You know that at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. we are always thinking of ways that our cannabis clients can save on taxes, minimize the impact of IRC Sec. 280E and limit audit risk. The cannabis tax attorneys and professionals at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and elsewhere in California are highly skilled in handling cannabis tax matters and can effectively represent at all levels with the IRS and State Tax Agencies. Also if you are involved in crypto-currency, check out what a Bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Attention California Cannabis Businesses: New Cannabis QR Code Regulations Are In Effect

Following the recent announcement of the Bureau Of Cannabis Control (BCC) of its QR Code campaign, on January 23, 2020 the BCC announced new proposed emergency regulations mandating cannabis retailers, distributors, and microbusinesses prominently display the licensee’s QR code to help consumers identify licensed cannabis retail stores, assist law enforcement and support the legal cannabis market where products such as vape cartridges are routinely tested to protect public health and safety.

A QR Code (abbreviated from Quick Response code) is the trademark for a type of matrix barcode (or two-dimensional barcode) first designed in 1994 for the automotive industry in Japan. The QR Code consists of black squares arranged in a square grid on a white background, which can be read by an imaging device such as a smartphone camera.

The proposed regulations require licensed retailers to print and post their unique QR Code in storefront windows or near entrances, to help educate consumers about the importance of supporting and purchasing products from the legal cannabis market.

Smartphone users are able to use their smartphone camera to scan the displayed QR Code, which automatically links to the BCC’s Online License Search and confirms the cannabis retailer’s license status. The system also displays the retailer’s address and license location to ensure that the information is not counterfeit.

BCC Chief Lori Ajax stated:

The proposed regulations will help consumers avoid purchasing cannabis goods from unlicensed businesses by providing a simple way to confirm licensure immediately before entering the premises or receiving a delivery. These requirements will also assist law enforcement in distinguishing between legal and illegal transportation of cannabis goods.”

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

All commercial cannabis activity in California must be conducted on a premises with a valid license issued by the appropriate state cannabis licensing authority. Manufacturing, distributing or selling cannabis goods without a state license or at a location that is not licensed is a violation of state law.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  1. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis; 
  1. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  1. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  1. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging a cannabis tax attorney at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Why Hire A Tax Attorney If You Are In U.S. Tax Court For IRC Sec. 280E?

Why Hire A Tax Attorney If You Are In U.S. Tax Court For IRC Sec. 280E?

IRS Tax Audits in the cannabis industry can be quite tricky. We previously wrote a blog on appealing these audits.

If you are involved in cannabis and dealing with an IRC Sec. 280E or other tax liability issue with the IRS and you are unable to reach a satisfactory resolution working with the IRS directly, then you may need to seek relief in the United States Tax Court. The U.S. Tax Court has jurisdiction over matters involving individual and business tax liability under the Internal Revenue Code, and, while individual taxpayers have the option to appear before the court pro se, most Tax Court litigants will benefit greatly from hiring a Board Certified Tax Attorney to represent them.

What Is The United States Tax Court?

The United States Tax Court is a Federal trial court. Because it is a court of record, a record is made of all its proceedings. It is an independent judicial forum. It is not controlled by or connected with the IRS. Congress pursuant to its authority under Article 3 of the U.S. Constitution created the Tax Court as an independent judicial authority for taxpayers disputing certain IRS determinations. The Tax Court’s authority to resolve these disputes is called its jurisdiction. Generally, a taxpayer may file a petition in the Tax Court in response to certain IRS determinations. A taxpayer who begins such a proceeding is known as the “petitioner”, and the Commissioner of Internal Revenue is the “respondent”.

Although the Tax Court is headquartered in Washington, D.C., its judges preside at trials in 60 U.S. cities, and its Special Trial Judges preside at trials in those cities and 15 additional cities.

How Do You Start A Case In The U.S. Tax Court?

If a taxpayer and the IRS do not agree to the findings of a tax examination, the IRS will send a notice proposing a tax adjustment (known as a “statutory notice of deficiency”). The statutory notice of deficiency gives you as the taxpayer the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the U.S. Tax Court before paying it. To do this, you need to file a petition within 90 days of the date of the notice (150 days if the notice is addressed to you outside the United States). If you filed your petition on time, the Tax Court will eventually schedule your case for trial at the designation place of trial you set forth in your petition. Prior to trial you should have the opportunity to seek a settlement with IRS Area Counsel and in certain cases, such settlement negotiations could be delegated to the IRS Office Of Appeals.

If there is still disagreement and the case does go to trial, you will have the opportunity to present your case before a Tax Court judge. The judge after hearing your case and reviewing the record and any post-trial briefs will render a decision in the form of an Opinion. It could take as much as two years after trial before an Opinion issued. If the Opinion is not appealed to a Circuit Court Of Appeals, then the proposed deficiency under the Opinion is final and your account will be sent to IRS Collections.

IRS Area Counsel are experienced trial attorneys working for the IRS whose job is to litigate cases in the U.S. Tax Court and look out for the best interests of the Federal government. Therefore, to level the playing field, it would be prudent for a taxpayer to hire qualified tax counsel as soon as possible to seek a mutually acceptable resolution without the need for trial, and if that does not happen, to already have the legal expertise in place to vigorously defend you at trial.

Reasons To Hire A Board Certified Tax Attorney

For a professional to be good at what he/she does, training and experience are necessary. The more real work experience you get, the more skilled you will be at your job. Most people do not have the adequate legal and tax knowledge to attend hearings or go to U.S. Tax Court without a Board Certified Tax Attorney present. Here are some other benefits of working with one.

Peace of mind

Although you can represent yourself in U.S. Tax Court, you may end up regretting it, especially if the outcome is not good. Having a Board Certified Tax Attorney with you will give you peace of mind irrespective of the case you are faced with. You can be confident that your case is being handled by someone who understands your legal and tax problems better and they will handle your case with utmost professionalism. Additionally, resolving complex tax issues, especially those involving IRC Sec. 280E, requires much more than simply finding the relevant provisions of the Internal Revenue Code. A Board Certified Tax Attorney will be able to conduct the necessary legal research to build a convincing (and legally-sound) argument for the best possible result.

Avoid incriminating yourself

Seasoned tax attorneys will spend time coaching their clients on how to behave and speak while in the U.S. Tax Court. This is important because the behavior and candor of a taxpayer in the courtroom can have tremendous effects on the case. A Board Certified Tax Attorney will go out of his/her way to ensure that you do not incriminate yourself whenever you speak in the Tax Court.

Reduce risks

Getting representation from a Board Certified Tax Attorney will boost the chances of keep your case on track to reaching the best possible result. A Board Certified Tax Attorney has experience handling tax cases in the U.S. Tax Court and they will handle any emerging issues before they become major problems for your case. When things get tough, you will be sure that your tax lawyer has the expertise and specialized training to handle the problem.

Conversant with all court procedures and rules

After filing a petition in the U.S. Tax Court, there are various time, form, and other procedural requirements that apply. An attorney who regularly practices before the Tax Court will be intimately familiar with these issues and will be able to ensure that procedural miscues do not jeopardize your case. Adhering to these procedures is crucial to the outcome of your case.

During your U.S. Tax Court case, the IRS through its counsel may file various motions to try to resolve the case with a finding of liability prior to trial. A Board Certified Tax Attorney will be able to interpret the substantive and strategic intent behind these motions and file appropriate responses with the Tax Court.

In many cases, issues that require resolution in the U.S. Tax Court will have ancillary legal implications as well. A Board Certified Tax Attorney will be able to identify these issues and address them before they lead to unnecessary costs and exposure.

Saving you money

Given the costly legal fees that people pay, it is difficult to believe that a Board Certified Tax Attorney can help you save cash. Most cases filed with the U.S. Tax Court settle. Should you settle your case? If so, when? A Board Certified Tax Attorney will be able to rely on the insights gained from numerous prior U.S. Tax Court cases to help you make informed decisions regarding settling or taking your case to trial.

What Should You Do?

When faced with litigation in the U.S. Tax Court, you need a tax lawyer by your side. Level the playing field and gain the upper hand by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Could California Finally Get Cannabis Tax Reform?

Could California Finally Get Cannabis Tax Reform?

In a previous blog we reported that the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) which oversees the reporting and collection of taxes for the California cannabis industry after conducting an analysis of statewide market data to determine the average mark-up rate between the wholesale cost and the retail selling price of cannabis and cannabis products, is increasing cannabis taxes effective January 1, 2020 by setting the mark-up rate at 80 percent.

Cannabis Excise Tax

The 15 percent cannabis excise tax is based on the average market price of the cannabis or cannabis products sold in a retail sale. The mark-up rate is used when calculating the average market price to determine the cannabis excise tax due in an arm’s length transaction. In an arm’s length transaction, the average market price is the retailer’s wholesale cost of the cannabis or cannabis products plus, the mark-up rate determined by the CDTFA. In a non-arm’s length transaction, the average market price is the cannabis retailer’s gross receipts from the retail sale of the cannabis or cannabis products.

Cannabis Cultivation Tax

As required by the Cannabis Tax Law, effective January 1, 2020, the cultivation tax rates reflect an adjustment for inflation. The adjusted rates for each category shown below will be reflected on the monthly and quarterly cannabis tax returns beginning January 1, 2020.

CANNABIS CATEGORY

CURRENT RATE

RATE EFFECTIVE 1/1/2020

Flower per dry-weight ounce

$9.25

$9.65

Leaves per dry-weight ounce

$2.75

$2.87

Fresh cannabis plant per ounce

$1.29

$1.35

  • On or after January 1, 2020, the rates apply to cannabis that a cultivator sells or transfers to a manufacturer or distributor.
  • Cultivator cannabis sales or transfers made prior to January 1, 2020, will use the current rate listed above.
  • All fresh cannabis plants must be weighed within two hours of harvesting.

If you are a cannabis retailer, you are required to collect the cannabis excise tax from your customers on each retail sale of cannabis or cannabis products starting January 1, 2018, and pay the excise tax to a distributor. Distributors are liable for paying the cannabis taxes to the CDTFA.

How This Impacts The Black Market

Many believe that the CDTFA’s decision to increase taxes on compliant cannabis operators while still mandating compliance with State and local regulations will widen the price disparity gap between cannabis products sold in the black market vs. cannabis products sold in the legal market. But with the State stepping up its enforcement efforts to uncover and prosecute illegal cannabis operators, the State is hoping to eliminate this discrepancy by eradicating non-compliant operators.

How Governor Newsom Is Looking To Reform This Area

We reported in a blog, Assembly Bill 37 signed into law last year by Governor Gavin Newsom that will approve cannabis companies for tax deductions that have otherwise been denied them under IRC Section 280E. 

On January 10, 2020, Governor Newsom released California’s proposed budget for 2020-2021, which includes proposals requested by the cannabis industry to streamline the regulatory, licensing, and tax process.  

These proposals notably include the following:

  • Consolidating the three licensing authorities (BCC, MCSB, CalCannabis Cultivation) into The Department of Cannabis Control by July 2021 with enforcement responsibilities against the regulated and illicit markets.
  • Proposing to move responsibility for cultivation tax collection to first distributor only (no final distributor or manufacturer). 
  • Proposing to move excise tax collection from the distributor to retailer which like sales taxes establishes liability on the “point of sale”.
  • Dedicating to work with industry on tax reform and reduction including the number of taxes and tax rates to simplify the system and to support a stronger, safer legal cannabis market.

Click here for the governor’s full 2020-2021 Budget Summary.

What Should You Do?

While the Governor’s support for reform is most welcomed, legislators must still approve of these changes which would not go into effect immediately so you still need to start your cannabis business on the right track under existing law.  Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

When Facing An IRS Tax Audit, How Do Marijuana Businesses Explain To IRS A Cash Stash Accumulated From The Past?

With the proliferation of licensed cannabis businesses sprouting in the State Of California and a growing number of States, a lot of cannabis business will be filing tax returns with the IRS for the first time. But beware, the IRS is well aware that successful cannabis businesses don’t just sprout overnight and now that your business is on the radar screen you can bet that the IRS will be inquiring how you accumulated all that cash before 2019. We refer to this accumulation of cash as “legacy cash”.

Legacy Cash Is A Big Problem For Successful Cannabis Businesses

In the early days of cannabis operations, the biggest issue was what to do with all the cash? Cash is bulky and risky, but you have to do something with it and cannabis entrepreneurs can’t just take it to their local bank and make a deposit like every other kind of business can. So what have cannabis entrepreneurs been doing for all these years? For the most part they are keep the cash and where that income was never reported on prior tax returns, they now run the risk of being caught by IRS and prosecuted for tax evasion.

Yes – Marijuana Businesses Have to Report Income To IRS And Pay Taxes!

While the sale of cannabis is legal in California as well as in a growing number of states, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under Federal law, the Controlled Substances Act. As such businesses in the cannabis industry are not treated like ordinary businesses. Despite state laws allowing cannabis, it remains illegal on a federal level but cannabis businesses are obligated to pay federal income tax on income because I.R.C. §61(a) does not differentiate between income derived from legal sources and income derived from illegal sources.

The Sixteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the Federal government from taxing “gross receipts”. In Edmondson vs. Commissioner, 42 T.C.M. (CCH) 1533 (T.C. 1981), the Tax Court decided that Jeffrey Edmonson, self-employed in the trade or business of selling amphetamines, cocaine, and cannabis, was permitted to deduct his business expenses resulting from his trade. Discomforted by this outcome, the following year Congress enacted I.R.C. §280E, disallowing all deductions and credits for amounts paid or incurred in the illegal trafficking in drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act.

Under I.R.C. §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Cannabis, including medical cannabis, is a controlled substance. While I.R.C. §280E disallows cannabis-related businesses to deduct “ordinary and necessary” business expenses, it would be unconstitutional for the IRS to disallow businesses to deduct Cost Of Goods Sold when calculating gross income. This concept was first applied in the Tax Court case of Olive vs. Commissioner Of Internal Revenue, 139 T.C. 19 (2012).

I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audits

It is no surprise that cannabis businesses are proliferating as more States legalize cannabis and make available licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell cannabis. The IRS recognizes this and it is making these cannabis businesses face Federal income tax audits. IRC §280E is at the forefront of all IRS cannabis tax audits and enforcement of §280E could result in unbearable tax liabilities.

Proving deductions to the IRS is a two-step process:

  • First, you must substantiate that you actually paid the expense you are claiming.
  • Second, you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible.

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

For example, if you claim a $5,000 purchase expense from a cannabis distributor, offering a copy of a bill or an invoice from the distributor (if one is even provided) is not enough. It only proves that you owe the money, not that you actually made good on paying the bill. The IRS accepts canceled checks, bank statements and credit card statements as proof of payment. But when such bills are paid in cash as it typical in a cannabis business, you would not have any of these supporting documents but the IRS may accept the equivalent in electronic form.

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

Next you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible. For a cannabis businesses this is challenging because of the I.R.C. §280E limitation; however a cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods.

For a cannabis reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income. You can be sure the IRS agents in audits will be looking closely at what is included in COGS.

Appealing An I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audit

Now if your cannabis IRS tax audit is not resolved, the results may be challenged. After the Revenue Agent has concluded the tax examination, the agent will issue a copy of the examination report explaining the agent’s proposed changes along with notice of your appeals rights. Pay attention to the type of letter that is included as it will dictate the appeals process available to you.

The “30-day letter”

The “30-day letter” gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the IRS Office Of Appeals. To do this, you need to file a Tax Protest within 30 days of the date of the notice. The Appeals Office is the only level of appeal within the IRS and is separate from and independent of the IRS office taking the action you disagree with. Conferences with Appeals Office personnel are held in an informal manner by correspondence, by telephone, or at a personal conference.

The “Notice Of Deficiency”

If the IRS does not adopt your position, it will send a notice proposing a tax adjustment (known as a statutory notice of deficiency). The statutory notice of deficiency gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the United States Tax Court before paying it. To do this, you need to file a petition within 90 days of the date of the notice (150 days if the notice is addressed to you outside the United States). If you filed your petition on time, the court will eventually schedule your case for trial at the designation place of trial you set forth in your petition. Prior to trial you should have the opportunity to seek a settlement with IRS Area Counsel and in certain cases, such settlement negotiations could be delegated to the IRS Office Of Appeals. If there is still disagreement and the case does go to trial, you will have the opportunity to present your case before a Tax Court judge. The judge after hearing your case and reviewing the record and any post-trial briefs will render a decision in the form of an Opinion. It could take as much as two years after trial before an Opinion issued. If the Opinion is not appealed to a Circuit Court Of Appeals, then the proposed deficiency under the Opinion is final and your account will be sent to IRS Collections.

IRS Area Counsel are experienced trial attorneys working for the IRS whose job is to litigate cases in the U.S. Tax Court and look out for the best interests of the Federal government. So to level the playing field, it would be prudent for a taxpayer to hire qualified tax counsel as soon as possible to seek a mutually acceptable resolution without the need for trial, and if that does not happen, to already have the legal expertise in place to vigorously defend you at trial.

Dealing With The Cash Legacy Problem

The IRS has not yet announced a specific tax amnesty for people who failed to report their income from cannabis but coming forward under Voluntary Disclosure could result in non-compliant taxpayers avoiding criminal prosecution and lower penalties.

What Should You Do?

While more States are legalizing cannabis, risks to the cannabis industry still exist. Considering the risks of cannabis you need to protect yourself and your investment. Level the playing field and gain the upper hand by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Appealing An I.R.C. § 280E IRS Tax Audit

While the sale of cannabis is legal in California as well as in a growing number of states, cannabis remains a Schedule 1 narcotic under Federal law, the Controlled Substances Act. As such businesses in the cannabis industry are not treated like ordinary businesses. Despite state laws allowing cannabis, it remains illegal on a federal level but cannabis businesses are obligated to pay federal income tax on income because I.R.C. §61(a) does not differentiate between income derived from legal sources and income derived from illegal sources.

Taxation Of Cannabis Businesses

The Sixteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution prohibits the Federal government from taxing “gross receipts”. In Edmondson vs. Commissioner, 42 T.C.M. (CCH) 1533 (T.C. 1981), the Tax Court decided that Jeffrey Edmonson, self-employed in the trade or business of selling amphetamines, cocaine, and cannabis, was permitted to deduct his business expenses resulting from his trade. Discomforted by this outcome, the following year Congress enacted I.R.C. §280E, disallowing all deductions and credits for amounts paid or incurred in the illegal trafficking in drugs listed in the Controlled Substances Act.

Under I.R.C. §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Cannabis, including medical cannabis, is a controlled substance. While I.R.C. §280E disallows cannabis-related businesses to deduct “ordinary and necessary” business expenses, it would be unconstitutional for the IRS to disallow businesses to deduct Cost Of Goods Sold when calculating gross income. This concept was first applied in the Tax Court case of Olive vs. Commissioner Of Internal Revenue, 139 T.C. 19 (2012).

I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audits

It is no surprise that cannabis businesses are proliferating as more States legalize cannabis and make available licenses to grow, manufacture, distribute and sell cannabis. The IRS recognizes this and it is making these cannabis businesses face Federal income tax audits. IRC §280E is at the forefront of all IRS cannabis tax audits and enforcement of §280E could result in unbearable tax liabilities.

Proving deductions to the IRS is a two-step process:


• First, you must substantiate that you actually paid the expense you are claiming.

Second, you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible.

Step One: Incurred And Paid The Expense.

For example, if you claim a $5,000 purchase expense from a cannabis distributor, offering a copy of a bill or an invoice from the distributor (if one is even provided) is not enough. It only proves that you owe the money, not that you actually made good on paying the bill. The IRS accepts canceled checks, bank statements and credit card statements as proof of payment. But when such bills are paid in cash as it typical in a cannabis business, you would not have any of these supporting documents but the IRS may accept the equivalent in electronic form.

Step Two: Deductibility Of The Expense.

Next you must prove that an expense is actually tax deductible. For a cannabis businesses this is challenging because of the I.R.C. §280E limitation; however a cannabis business can still deduct its Cost Of Goods Sold (“COGS”). Cost of goods sold are the direct costs attributable to the production of goods. For a cannabis reseller this includes the cost of cannabis itself and transportation used in acquiring cannabis. To the extent greater costs of doing business can be legitimately included in COGS that will that result in lower taxable income. You can be sure the IRS agents in audits will be looking closely at what is included in COGS.

Appealing An I.R.C. Section 280E IRS Tax Audit

Now if your cannabis IRS tax audit is not resolved, the results may be challenged. After the Revenue Agent has concluded the tax examination, the agent will issue a copy of the examination report explaining the agent’s proposed changes along with notice of your appeals rights. Pay attention to the type of letter that is included as it will dictate the appeals process available to you.

The “30-day letter”

The “30-day letter” gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the IRS Office Of Appeals. To do this, you need to file a Tax Protest within 30 days of the date of the notice. The Appeals Office is the only level of appeal within the IRS and is separate from and independent of the IRS office taking the action you disagree with. Conferences with Appeals Office personnel are held in an informal manner by correspondence, by telephone, or at a personal conference.

The “Notice Of Deficiency”

If the IRS does not adopt your position, it will send a notice proposing a tax adjustment (known as a statutory notice of deficiency). The statutory notice of deficiency gives you the right to challenge the proposed adjustment in the United States Tax Court before paying it. To do this, you need to file a petition within 90 days of the date of the notice (150 days if the notice is addressed to you outside the United States). If you filed your petition on time, the court will eventually schedule your case for trial at the designation place of trial you set forth in your petition. Prior to trial you should have the opportunity to seek a settlement with IRS Area Counsel and in certain cases, such settlement negotiations could be delegated to the IRS Office Of Appeals. If there is still disagreement and the case does go to trial, you will have the opportunity to present your case before a Tax Court judge. The judge after hearing your case and reviewing the record and any post-trial briefs will render a decision in the form of an Opinion. It could take as much as two years after trial before an Opinion issued. If the Opinion is not appealed to a Circuit Court Of Appeals, then the proposed deficiency under the Opinion is final and your account will be sent to IRS Collections.

IRS Area Counsel are experienced trial attorneys working for the IRS whose job is to litigate cases in the U.S. Tax Court and look out for the best interests of the Federal government. So to level the playing field, it would be prudent for a taxpayer to hire qualified tax counsel as soon as possible to seek a mutually acceptable resolution without the need for trial, and if that does not happen, to already have the legal expertise in place to vigorously defend you at trial.

What Should You Do?

While more States are legalizing cannabis, risks to the cannabis industry still exist. Considering the risks of cannabis you need to protect yourself and your investment. Level the playing field and gain the upper hand by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with solutions and strategies to these risks and protect you and your business to maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

cannabis business banking law

Federal Government Opens Up Banking For Hemp-Related Businesses

On December 3, 2019 Four federal agencies (the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency) in conjunction with the state bank regulators announced new policy clarifying the legal status of hemp growth and production and the relevant requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) for banks providing services to hemp-related businesses.

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) cannabis is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Hemp was included in this class but with the legalization of Hemp in the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 (2018 Farm Bill), it was a matter of time before Federal government regulators would catch up.

Changes To Grant Banking Access To Hemp Businesses

The new policy emphasizes that banks are no longer required to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SAR) for customers solely because they are engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. For hemp-related customers, banks are expected to follow standard SAR procedures, and file a SAR if indicia of suspicious activity warrants.

This new policy provides banks with background information on the legal status of hemp, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) interim final rule on the production of hemp, and the BSA considerations when providing banking services to hemp-related businesses.

This new policy also indicates that FinCEN will issue additional guidance after further reviewing and evaluating the USDA interim final rule.

The full text of the new policy statement can be read here.

BSA Considerations

Because hemp is no longer a Schedule I controlled substance under the Controlled Substances Act, banks are not required to file an SAR on customers solely because they are engaged in the growth or cultivation of hemp in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. For hemp-related customers, banks are expected to follow standard SAR procedures, and file an SAR if indicia of suspicious activity warrants.

Still, it may be awhile before banks readily open business to hemp as it is generally a bank’s business decision as to the types of permissible services and accounts to offer, and banks must have a BSA/AML compliance program commensurate with the level of complexity and risks involved. When deciding to serve hemp-related businesses, banks must comply with applicable regulatory requirements for customer identification, suspicious activity reporting, currency transaction reporting, and risk-based customer due diligence, including the collection of beneficial ownership information for legal entity customers.

Higher Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for hemp-related business, it still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the cannabis industry differently resulting in such business paying at least 3-times as much in taxes as ordinary businesses.

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Cannabis, including medical cannabis, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in cannabis have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The BSA enacted in 1970 requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

Cannabis-related businesses operate in an environment of cash transactions as many banks remain reluctant to do business with many in the marijuana industry. Like any cash-based business the IRS scrutinizes the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash. So it is of most importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records. 

How Do You Know Which Cannabis Tax Attorney Is Best For You?

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  So it is best to be proactive and engage an experienced cannabis tax attorney in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

“Kushy Punch” Loses Its State Cannabis License For Engaging In Illegal Activity

Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California, you do not have to worry about the State.

California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the Bureau of Cannabis Control (“BCC”) which also monitors compliance and will revoke your license if you are non-compliant. If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.

State Of California Revokes Kushy Punch’s State Cannabis License.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control (“BCC”) and California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) announced on November 21, 2019 that they have revoked the state commercial cannabis licenses issued to Vertical Bliss, Inc., also known as Kushy Punch, located at 20500 Nordhoff Street in Chatsworth, California.

After receiving a complaint about illegal cannabis activity at a location in Canoga Park, California, state regulators searched the unlicensed location and seized nearly $21 million in illegal cannabis products, including 7,200 illegal vape cartridges. The license for the Nordhoff Street premises was revoked following the discovery of connections between Vertical Bliss and the unlicensed location. The revocations of Vertical Bliss’ cannabis manufacturing license CDPH-10003574 and cannabis distribution license C11-0000544-LIC are effective November 21, 2019.

All commercial cannabis activity in California must be conducted on a premises with a valid license issued by the appropriate state cannabis licensing authority. Manufacturing, distributing or selling cannabis goods without a state license or at a location that is not licensed is a violation of state law.

In a previous blog we wrote about Governor Gavin Newsom’s promise made in February 2019 to deploy the California National Guard against marijuana grows in California. Multijurisdictional task forces have long been deployed against marijuana grows in California as we noted in the following blogs:

  • Click here on a raid the occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Kern County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Buellton.

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  1. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis; 
  1. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  1. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  1. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

You can count on other county governments coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), Los Angeles and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Cannabis Legalization Bills

MORE Act Approved By The House Judiciary Committee To End Cannabis Prohibition – If You Can’t Beat Them, Then Join Them!

Under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision.

 

The federal penalties for possession of any amount of marijuana are as follows:

  • First Offense – Misdemeanor involving up to one year of incarceration and $1,000 in fines
  • Second Offense – Misdemeanor punishable by 15 days to 2 years behind bars and $2,500 in fines
  • Third and subsequent offenses – Misdemeanor or felony punishable by 90 days to 3 years of incarceration and fines of up to $5,000.

 

The penalties for the sale of marijuana depend on the amount of marijuana you have been accused of selling or attempting to sell:

  • Less than 50 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 kilograms – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or fines of up to $1,000,000
  • 100 to 999 kilograms – Felony involving 5 to 40 years incarceration and/or fines of up to $2,000,000
  • 1000 kg and up – Felony carrying a sentence of 10 years to life in prison and/or up to  $4,000,000 in fines

 

As for the cultivation of marijuana, the federal authorities punish it on the basis of the number of plants you were caught growing:

  • Less than 50 plants – Felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison and/or up to $250,000 in fines
  • 50 to 99 plants – Felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison and/or up to $1,000,000 in fines
  • 100 to 999 plants – Felony carrying a 5 to 40-year prison sentence and/or fines of up to $5,000,000
  • 1,000 plants or more – Felony involving 10 years to life in prison and/or fines of up to $10,000,000

 

With aggravating factors such as a trafficking activity that results in an injury or death, a sale within 1,000 feet of a school, or a case involving five grams sold to a minor, the above penalties may increase dramatically.

 

How things have changed –  

Medical marijuana is legal in 33 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 33 states and Washington DC. Those 33 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and Puerto Rico.

 

Recreational marijuana is legal in 10 states. 

Ten states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those ten states being Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam.

 

Department Of Justice preferring cannabis legalization. 

Attorney General William Barr stated that he would prefer that Congress enact legislation allowing states to legalize marijuana instead of continuing the current approach under which a growing number of states have ended cannabis prohibition in conflict with federal law.

 

Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act Approved By The House Judiciary Committee On November 20, 2019

 

The MORE Act (H.R. 3884), sponsored by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-New York), would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and set aside funding to begin repairing the damage of the war on drugs, which has been disproportionately waged against communities of color.  Among other things, the MORE Act would also provide for resentencing and expungement of records for people previously convicted of cannabis offenses and would shield immigrants from being denied citizenship status over marijuana.

 

Chairman Nadler issued a press release stating “Our marijuana laws disproportionately harm individuals and communities of color, leading to convictions that damage job prospects, access to housing, and the ability to vote.  Recognizing this, many states have legalized marijuana.  It’s now time for us to remove the criminal prohibitions against marijuana at the federal level. That’s why I introduced the MORE Act, legislation which would assist communities disproportionately impacted by the enforcement of these laws. I am grateful for the leadership of Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Blumenauer, as well as other Members of Congress who have helped pave the way for this important measure. I look forward to moving this legislation out of the House Judiciary Committee, making it one step closer to becoming law.”

 

The House Judiciary Committee approved the MORE Act on a bipartisan vote of 24-10.  This marks the first time that a congressional committee has ever passed a bill to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act.  The bill still must go to a vote to the full floor of the House before moving on to the Senate.

 

Higher Taxes Still Remain

While the developments listed above are favorable for cannabis business, it still remains to be seen when favorable changes will be made to the Internal Revenue Code which treats businesses in the marijuana industry differently resulting in such business paying at least 3-times as much in taxes as ordinary businesses.

 

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under I.R.C. §162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added I.R.C. §280E. Under §280E, taxpayers cannot deduct any amount for a trade or business where the trade or business consists of trafficking in controlled substances…which is prohibited by Federal law. Marijuana, including medical marijuana, is a controlled substance. What this means is that dispensaries and other businesses trafficking in marijuana have to report all of their income and cannot deduct rent, wages, and other expenses, making their marginal tax rate substantially higher than most other businesses.

Keep in mind that a change in the tax law could result only in prospective relief and have no impact on prior tax years.

Reporting Of Cash Payments Still Remain

The Bank Secrecy Act of 1970 (“BSA”) requires financial institutions in the United States to assist U.S. government agencies to detect and prevent money laundering. Specifically, the act requires financial institutions to keep records of cash purchases of negotiable instruments, and file reports of cash purchases of these negotiable instruments of more than $10,000 (daily aggregate amount), and to report suspicious activity that might signify money laundering, tax evasion, or other criminal activities. The BSA requires any business receiving one or more related cash payments totaling more than $10,000 to file IRS Form 8300, Report of Cash Payments Over $10,000 Received in a Trade or Business.

 

The minimum penalty for failing to file EACH Form 8300 is $25,000 if the failure is due to an intentional or willful disregard of the cash reporting requirements. Penalties may also be imposed for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to fail to file a required report; for causing, or attempting to cause, a trade or business to file a required report containing a material omission or misstatement of fact; or for structuring, or attempting to structure, transactions to avoid the reporting requirements. These violations may also be subject to criminal prosecution which, upon conviction, may result in imprisonment of up to 5 years or fines of up to $250,000 for individuals and $500,000 for corporations or both.

 

Marijuana-related businesses operate in an environment of cash transactions as many banks remain reluctant to do business with many in the marijuana industry. Like any cash-based business the IRS scrutinizes the amount of gross receipts to report and it is harder to prove to the IRS expenses paid in cash. So it is of most importance that the proper facilities and procedures be set up to maintain an adequate system of books and records.

 

How Do You Know Which Cannabis Tax Attorney Is Best For You?

Given that cannabis is still illegal under existing Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  While cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you.  It’s coming down that the biggest risk is TAXES.  So it is best to be proactive and engage an experienced cannabis tax attorney in your area who is highly skilled in the different legal and tax issues that cannabis businesses face.  Let the cannabis tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Santa Barbara County Police Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Operation

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Shuts Down Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation Seizing 1,700 Marijuana Plants

Anyone conducting business in cannabis surely knows that under Federal law (Controlled Substances Act 21 U.S.C. 801) marijuana is designated as a Schedule I controlled substance due to the historical belief that it has a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. So the risk is apparent that at any time Federal authorities could come and shut you down but don’t think that just because cannabis is legal in California, you do not have to worry about the State.

California law mandates that you can only sell cannabis if you have obtained a license to do so. These licenses being issued by the BCC. If you don’t have a license, then selling cannabis or transporting it in order to sell it is still a crime under H&S Code §11360.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Raids Illegal Cannabis Grow Operation.

As reported by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office, authorities received complaints regarding possible illegal marijuana cultivation occurring within the La Cresta community, Riverside County.

On November 14, 2019, deputies served a search warrant in the 39000 block of Calle De Campareno. Approximately 1700 marijuana plants in various stages of growth were located and collected. In addition, the electrical system within the residence was illegally altered causing a severe fire hazard and theft of utilities. The estimated theft of utilities for the last six months is going to be up words of approximately $60,000. The entire residence was turned into an illegal marijuana cultivation.

While making announcements regarding the service of a search warrant, two female individuals fled out the rear of the residence and were detained.  They were subsequently arrested for maintaining a drug house, illegal marijuana cultivation, and theft of utilities.

Meiyun Zhou, 38-year-old female resident of La Cresta, was arrested and booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

Xiao Mei Chen, 22-year-old female resident of Corona, was arrested and booked into Cois Byrd Detention Center in Murrieta.

The investigation is ongoing.

In a previous blog we wrote about Governor Gavin Newsom’s promise made in February 2019 to deploy the California National Guard against marijuana grows in California. Multijurisdictional task forces have long been deployed against marijuana grows in California as we noted in the following blogs:

  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Kern County
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Carpinteria in Santa Barbara County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in Riverside County.
  • Click here on a raid that occurred in the City of Buellton.

Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

For most defendants, unlicensed sale or transport for sale of cannabis is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in county jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000. For defendants under 18, it is an infraction. Also, giving away or transporting for sale up to 28.5 grams of cannabis without a license is an infraction.

But the sale/transport for sale of cannabis without a license to do so is a felony for the following defendants:

  1. Defendants who have a prior conviction for one of a list of particularly serious violent felonies, including murder, sexually violent offenses, sex crimes against a child under 14, or gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, or a sex crime that requires them to register as a sex offender;
  2. Defendants who have two or more prior convictions for H&S Code §11360 sale/transportation of cannabis;
  3. Defendants who knowingly sold, attempted to sell, or offered to sell or furnish cannabis to someone under 18; or
  4. Defendants who imported or attempted or offered to import into California, or transported or attempted/offered to transport out of California for sale, more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or more than four grams of concentrated cannabis.

In any of these scenarios, black market sale or transportation for sale of cannabis under H&S Code §11360 is punishable anywhere from two to four years in jail.

Transporting cannabis without intent to sell it, or giving cannabis away, is not a crime in California so long as BOTH of the following are true:

  1. You transport or give away not more than 28.5 grams of cannabis or eight grams of concentrated cannabis, and
  2. Any people you give cannabis to are 21 years of age or older.

What Should You Do?

You can count on other county governments coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public.

Both civil and criminal penalties will apply to unlicensed operators so it is imperative that anyone cultivating, manufacturing or distributing cannabis on a commercial basis in California seeks a local and state license for their operations immediately, if they have not already done so. Protect yourself and your investment by engaging the cannabis tax attorneys at the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County (Irvine), the Inland Empire (including Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations. We can come up with tax solutions and strategies and protect you and your business and to maximize your net profits. Also, if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.