Governor Newsom Signs Cannabis Trailer Bill Creating The Department Of Cannabis Control

On May 14, 2021 the California Bureau of Cannabis Control issued a press release announcing Governor Newsom’s “California Comeback Plan” which proposes $100 million in grant funding for local governments to complete environmental studies, license reviews, and mitigate environmental impacts. Additionally, the Governor proposed a consolidation of California’s the three California State Cannabis Agencies – the Bureau of Cannabis Control, CDFA’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division, and CDPH’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch – into a single, new state department called the Department of Cannabis Control (DCC).

AB 141 which addressed the consolidation aspect of the Governor’s plan was signed into law on July 12, 2021.  Governor Newsom has appointed Nicole Elliott to lead DCC as its first Director.  In addition to the creation of the DCC, AB 141 also includes the following provisions:

  • Changes references in state law from the three state licensing authorities to DCC.
  • Modifies the timelines and requirements related to provisional licensing.
  • Creates a Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion to lead DCC implementation of the California Cannabis Equity Act and incorporate equity and inclusivity throughout DCC’s programs.
  • Allows licensees to provide trade samples to other licensees to market cannabis and cannabis products after DCC adopts regulations governing these processes.
  • Allows DCC to use emergency regulations to consolidate the regulations previously adopted by the three cannabis programs and make clarifying or consistency changes.
  • Requires DCC to post information on its website beginning January 1, 2022, related to license suspensions and revocations, final decisions, and county of license issuance.

How The Consolidation Affects You.

The State relaunched the California Cannabis Portal, www.cannabis.ca.gov. It includes expanded information about cannabis license application, business types, regulations and consumer information. For now, you do not need to take any specific action. The DCC will share additional information during the coming days and weeks, including updated contact information and answers to common questions.  Old email addresses for staff will redirect to their new DCC email address for several months. If your point of contact changes, you will be provided with updated contact information.

Cannabis businesses – Your license or license application transferred to DCC automatically. You do not need to submit a new license application. Your current license is still active, even if your license certificate lists the old licensing authority’s name. Your license will still expire at the time listed on your license certificate. Email licensing@cannabis.ca.gov with any license or application questions or info@cannabis.ca.gov with general questions.

Local governments – DCC staff will continue to email your office regarding applications to confirm compliance with local requirements. Email locals@cannabis.ca.gov to update your point of contact or send the DCC a copy of your most recent ordinance.

Law enforcement – You can continue to coordinate investigations or complaints with your existing points-of-contact. Email enforcement@cannabis.ca.gov to reach the DCC enforcement team.

Researchers – The consolidation does not affect your grant funding or the amount you were awarded by the Bureau of Cannabis Control. Email questions or required grant reports to grants@cannabis.ca.gov.

State Of California’s Support Of The Cannabis Industry

The DCC licenses and regulates commercial cannabis activity within California. DCC works closely with businesses and local jurisdictions to create a strong legal cannabis industry and a safe and equitable marketplace. DCC develops and implements progressive cannabis policies with robust protections for public health, safety and the environment.

Developments like this contradict the basis of classification of cannabis under Federal law which makes cannabis illegal.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you and for sure you want to take advantage of any assistance or support offered by the State. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

If You Can’t Beat Them Then Join Them! Legal Cannabis States Have Generated Nearly $8 Billion In Tax Revenue Since Recreational Sales Launched

States that have legalized marijuana for adult use have collectively generated nearly $8 billion in tax revenue from cannabis since legal sales first began in 2014, according to a new report from the Marijuana Policy Project.

The authors of the report examined the tax structure and revenue streams of all 18 states that have legalized recreational cannabis, though sales have not launched yet in seven of those states. Overall, it shows that establishing regulated marijuana markets gives states a steady and generally growing source of revenue that can support various programs and services.

Last year alone, the adult-use states collected $2.7 billion in taxes from cannabis sales. And as more markets come online and others mature, that’s expected to continue to grow.

The report notes that for California, voters approved an initiative regulating marijuana for adults’ use in November 2016. The state’s first adult-use stores began to open in January 2018, but transition from the state’s unregulated, grey market medical marijuana providers to a licensed and regulated system has been more gradual than some anticipated. In addition, localities have been slow to establish regulations, which has delayed the transition and reduced revenue.

In 2020, California collected more than $1 billion in adult-use cannabis tax revenue, a 62% increase compared to 2019.

The California voter-approved legalization law directs a significant portion of its cannabis tax revenues to local nonprofit programs that benefit people adversely impacted by punitive drug laws. More than $100 million has already been distributed to community groups, with more on the way.  The state also invests large chunks of cannabis revenue into child care services and environmental programs.

With about 37 states now legalizing some form of cannabis use, you would think that it is now time for the Federal government to change course.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

Joyce-Blumenauer Amendment (previously referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment)

Building on the DOJ’s issuance of the Cole Memo, in 2014 the House passed an amendment to the yearly federal appropriations bill that effectively shields medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution. Proposed by Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

NONE OF THE FUNDS MADE AVAILABLE UNDER THIS ACT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MAY BE USED, WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE STATES OF ALABAMA, ALASKA, ARIZONA, ARKANSAS, CALIFORNIA, COLORADO, CONNECTICUT, DELAWARE, FLORIDA, GEORGIA, HAWAII, ILLINOIS, INDIANA, IOWA, KENTUCKY, LOUISIANA, MAINE, MARYLAND, MASSACHUSETTS, MICHIGAN, MINNESOTA, MISSISSIPPI, MISSOURI, MONTANA, NEVADA, NEW HAMPSHIRE, NEW JERSEY, NEW MEXICO, NEW YORK, NORTH CAROLINA, NORTH DAKOTA, OHIO, OKLAHOMA, OREGON, PENNSYLVANIA, RHODE ISLAND, SOUTH CAROLINA, TENNESSEE, TEXAS, UTAH, VERMONT, VIRGINIA, WASHINGTON, WEST VIRGINIA, WISCONSIN, AND WYOMING, OR WITH RESPECT TO THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, GUAM, OR PUERTO RICO, TO PREVENT ANY OF THEM FROM IMPLEMENTING THEIR OWN LAWS THAT AUTHORIZE THE USE, DISTRIBUTION, POSSESSION, OR CULTIVATION OF MEDICAL MARIJUANA.

This action by the House is not impacted by the change of position by the DOJ. However, unless this amendment gets included in each succeeding federal appropriations bill, the protection from Federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses will no longer be in place.  Fortunately, Congress has included this amendment but yet has changed any of the tax or banking laws that pose challenges to the cannabis industry.

Clearly, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be on the medical cannabis side and you must be in complete compliance with your State’s medical cannabis laws and regulations. You may not be covered under the amendment if you are involved in the recreational cannabis side even if legal in the State you are operating.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

The Biden Administration Continues Its Stance Against Cannabis In A Section 280E Legal Battle

The Biden Administration Continues Its Stance Against Cannabis In A Section 280E Legal Battle

On May 21, 2021, acting Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar filed an Opposition Brief on behalf of the United States in its opposition to a Petition For A Writ Of Certiorari To The United States Court Of Appeals For The Tenth Circuit in the case of Eric D. Speidell et al vs. United States Of America (U.S. Supreme Court No. 20-1332).

Eric Speidell of Colorado-based The Green Solution who is included in the petitioners owns and operates marijuana dispensaries in Colorado, which has decriminalized marijuana in some respects under state law.  The tax returns filed by the cannabis businesses were selected for examination.  Unlike non-cannabis businesses which can deduct all expenses incurred in carrying on a trade or business under IRC Sec. 162, cannabis businesses are subject to IRC Sec. 280E.

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.

The question as presented to the U.S. Supreme Court is: Whether the court of appeals correctly affirmed the district court’s decision to enforce several third-party summonses issued by the Internal Revenue Service as part of investigations into the accuracy of petitioners’ federal income tax returns.

If the Supreme Court grants the Writ Of Certiorari, the Court would eventually hear this appeal and issue a ruling which could have huge implications for the cannabis industry given that prior challenges in the lower courts by cannabis businesses have been unsuccessful.

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.

While most expenses cannot be deducted under IRC Sec. 280E, IRC Sec. 280E does allow a cannabis business to 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 2020 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), Northern California (including San Francisco and Sacramento) 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.

Governor Newsom’s California Comeback Plan Proposes Millions in Funding for Cannabis

On May 14, 2021 the California Bureau of Cannabis Control issued a press release announcing Governor Newsom’s “California Comeback Plan” which proposes $100 million in grant funding for local governments to complete environmental studies, license reviews, and mitigate environmental impacts. The proposal supports a broader effort to transition cannabis businesses into the regulated market and to reduce barriers to entry for small businesses. The California Comeback Plan also proposes a Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion to lead state efforts to address the impacts of the War on Drugs and allocates nearly $630 million in cannabis tax funds to public health, environmental protection, and public safety initiatives.

Here is an overview of cannabis proposals in the California Comeback Plan:

Local Assistance Grant Program and Transition of Provisional Licenses

Approximately 82% of California’s cannabis licensees are provisionally licensed. The Local Jurisdiction Assistance Grant Program targets jurisdictions that have high numbers of provisional licensees across the supply chain, many of which were early adopters and are transitioning larger populations of legacy and equity operators into the regulated market. Funds are intended to aid locals in more expeditiously reviewing provisional licensee local requirements, notably those related to the California Environmental Quality Act, and can be passed through to licensees for things such as mitigation measures, including those related to water conservation. Once these requirements are met, the state can more rapidly transition provisional licensees to annual state licenses.

“This grant funding aims to serve local governments and a significant portion of the provisional license population, including a number of small businesses and equity operators,” said Nicole Elliott, Governor Newsom’s Senior Advisor on Cannabis. “We are committed to maintaining stability across the cannabis supply chain, supporting our local partners, and transitioning provisional licenses into annual licensure more swiftly, without sacrificing California’s environmental commitments.”

The funding that will be available to local jurisdictions is calculated based on provisional licenses issued by the state, and is proposed to be allocated as follows:

  • Category 1 – 25%: top 8 jurisdictions allowing cannabis cultivation.
  • Category 2 – 25%: top 8 jurisdictions allowing manufacturing and the top 8 jurisdictions allowing all other cannabis activities, except events.
  • Category 3 – 50%: additional funding for jurisdictions that qualify for Category 1 or 2 and are also implementing local equity programs.

Under current statute, the provisional license program will sunset on January 1, 2022. The Governor’s Plan proposes allowing provisional licenses to be issued until June 30, 2022, makes explicit environmental compliance requirements necessary to attain and maintain a provisional license, mandates the Department to specify through regulation what progress is required to maintain a provisional license, and removes the sunset date, thereby allowing a provisional license to be maintained so long as the applicant is making measurable progress toward achieving annual licensure.

Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion

The California Comeback Plan proposes an additional position within the Department of Cannabis Control – a Deputy Director of Equity and Inclusion – to serve as the lead on all matters of the Department pertaining to the implementation of the California Cannabis Equity Act. This individual would be the Department liaison for local equity programs created to support and reduce barriers to entry for those negatively impacted by the War on Drugs and would also work directly with the Department Director to further incorporate equity and inclusivity into policies and operational activities throughout the Department.

Sustainable California Grown Cannabis Pilot Program

The California Comeback Plan proposes $9 million in funding for a Sustainable California Grown Cannabis pilot program which will provide funding to incentivize licensed outdoor cannabis growers to participate in the collection of data to benchmark best practices that reduce the environmental impact of cannabis water and energy use; pest management and fertilizer practices; and, to enhance soil health. The purpose of the pilot program is to establish science-based data for the future inclusion of cannabis in current and future state and national voluntary programs to advance environmental stewardship and to develop and advance Best Management Practices for Sustainable Cannabis Growing.

Updated Tax Allocations

The California Comeback Plan estimates $629.1 million in cannabis tax funding will be available for public health, environmental protection, and public safety initiatives, a 41.9% increase from the Governor’s Budget estimates in January. The funding will be allocated as follows:

  • Education, prevention, and treatment of youth substance use disorders and school retention — 60% ($377.5 million).
  • Clean-up, remediation, and enforcement of environmental impacts created by illegal cannabis cultivation — 20% ($125.8 million).
  • Public safety-related activities — 20% ($125.8 million).

Consolidation Of California Cannabis Agencies

The Department of Cannabis Control will be formed on July 1, 2021, pending approval by the Legislature, and will combine the cannabis licensing and regulatory functions currently performed by the Department of Consumer Affairs’ Bureau of Cannabis Control, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing Division, and the California Department of Public Health’s Manufactured Cannabis Safety Branch.

Developments like this contradict the basis of classification of cannabis under Federal law which makes cannabis illegal.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you and for sure you want to take advantage of any assistance or support offered by the State. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

National Park Service Seizes Illegal Cannabis In Death Valley

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 especially if you are growing cannabis on Federal lands.

Death Valley Raid

On April 30, 2021 the National Park Service issued a press release that Federal park rangers recently discovered a large, illegal marijuana grow site in Death Valley National Park. The site of approximately 40 acres was spotted in Jail Canyon, a rarely-visited canyon on the western side of the Panamint Mountains. Jail Canyon is temporarily closed for public safety reasons until park rangers can fully evaluate the area.

Carbofuran and other dangerous chemicals have been found previously at marijuana grow sites in the park. In the past, growers have threatened hikers who have stumbled upon their illegal operations.

“We are deeply saddened and concerned with the damage that these illegal activities cause,” said Barbara Durham, Traditional Historic Preservation Officer for the Timbisha Shoshone Tribe. “The natural and cultural resources in these areas are irreplaceable and invaluable, damaging them for profit shows incredible disrespect to our homeland.”

“Preserving natural and cultural resources while providing an opportunity for the public to enjoy amazing places is at the core of our mission,” said Rob Wissinger, Chief Ranger at Death Valley National Park. “Seeing irreparable damage to a fragile ecosystem rich with rare natural and cultural resources is devastating.”

Park authorities state that marijuana grow sites significantly damage and destroy the park’s natural and cultural resources by introducing pesticides, land clearing, poaching and waterway modifications. Although the climate of Death Valley may appear inhospitable to marijuana cultivation, over the past decade, hundreds of acres of marijuana have been illegally cultivated in the park.

The National Park Service states that visitors to Death Valley’s most well-traveled areas are not at risk of finding a marijuana grow site; however, hikers in remote areas near water sources should remain alert, turn around and leave if they notice signs of suspicious activity, such as excessive amounts of trash, hillside terracing, or plastic irrigation tubing. Once safe, they should notify rangers at a visitor center or call the National Park Service tip line at 888-653-0009.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

California State Penalties For Selling Cannabis Without A License.

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.

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 all level of government coordinating resources and making comprehensive strikes on unlicensed and illegal cannabis operations for the safety of the public or to enforce the Federal prohibition.

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.

Cannabis Consumption Trends: Older Patients More Likely to Consume Cannabis Tinctures, High-CBD Products

According to an analysis of sales data published in the journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, older patients are more likely to purchase sublingual formulations of cannabis, as well as products higher in CBD.  Researchers from New York University’s School of Medicine analyzed invoice data from nearly 6,000 patients ages 50 and older who patronized a state-licensed medical dispensary in New York State.

Among cannabis patients, 25.8% were aged 65 years or older, and 34.5% were aged from 50 years old to 64 years old. Across all age groups, severe or chronic pain was the predominant symptom for cannabis use, although older patients were more likely to use cannabis for cancer and Parkinson’s disease among other conditions. Older adults were more likely to use sublingual tincture versus other consumption methods, to use products with a lower THC:CBD ratio, and to begin cannabis treatment with a lower THC and higher CBD dose compared with younger age groups.

Developments like this contradict the basis of classification of cannabis under Federal law which makes cannabis illegal.

The Anti-Federal U.S. Climate

The Federal Controlled Substances Act (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812 classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 substance with a high potential for abuse, no currently accepted medical use in treatment, and lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. Although you can still face federal criminal charges for using, growing, or selling weed in a manner that is completely lawful under California law, the federal authorities in the past have pulled back from targeting individuals and businesses engaged in medical marijuana activities. This pull back came from Department of Justice (“DOJ”) Safe Harbor Guidelines issued in 2013 under what is known as the “Cole Memo”.

The Cole Memo included eight factors for prosecutors to look at in deciding whether to charge a medical marijuana business with violating the Federal law:

  • Does the business allow minors to gain access to marijuana?
  • Is revenue from the business funding criminal activities or gangs?
  • Is the marijuana being diverted to other states?
  • Is the legitimate medical marijuana business being used as a cover or pretext for the traffic of other drugs or other criminal enterprises?
  • Are violence or firearms being used in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana?
  • Does the business contribute to drugged driving or other adverse public health issues?
  • Is marijuana being grown on public lands or in a way that jeopardizes the environment or public safety?
  • Is marijuana being used on federal property?

Since 2013, these guidelines provided a level of certainty to the marijuana industry as to what point could you be crossing the line with the Federal government.  But on January 4, 2018, then Attorney General Jeff Sessions revoked the Cole Memo.  Now U.S. Attorneys in the local offices throughout the country retain broad prosecutorial discretion as to whether to prosecute cannabis businesses under federal law even though the state that these businesses operate in have legalized some form of marijuana.

Joyce-Blumenauer Amendment (previously referred to as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment)

Medical marijuana is legal in 36 states.

The medical use of cannabis is legal (with a doctor’s recommendation) in 36 states and Washington DC. Those 36 states being Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia. The medical use of cannabis is also legal in the territories of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.

Recreational marijuana is legal in 17 states.

17 states and Washington DC, have legalized marijuana for recreational use — no doctor’s letter required — for adults over the age of 21. Those 17 states being Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont and Washington and the territory of Guam.

Building on the DOJ’s issuance of the Cole Memo, in 2014 the House passed an amendment to the yearly federal appropriations bill that effectively shields medical marijuana businesses from federal prosecution. Proposed by Representatives Rohrabacher and Farr, the amendment forbids federal agencies to spend money on investigating and prosecuting medical marijuana-related activities in states where such activities are legal.

The amendment states that:

“None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming, or with respect to the District of Columbia, Guam, or Puerto Rico, to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

This action by the House is not impacted by former Attorney General Sessions’ change of position with the DOJ. However, unless this amendment gets included in each succeeding federal appropriations bill, the protection from Federal prosecution of medical marijuana businesses will no longer be in place.

Fortunately for medical marijuana businesses in the last budget extension approved by Congress, this amendment was included. This means that the DOJ is precluded from spending funds to circumvent any of the foregoing states from implementing their medical cannabis laws.

Clearly, to avail yourself of the protections of the amendment, you must be on the medical cannabis side and you must be in complete compliance with your State’s medical cannabis laws and regulations. You may not be covered under the amendment if you are involved in the recreational cannabis side even if legal in the State you are operating.

What Should You Do?

Given the illegal status of cannabis under Federal law you need to protect yourself and your marijuana business from all challenges created by the U.S. government.  Although cannabis is legal in California, that is not enough to protect you. Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Inland Empire (Ontario and Palm Springs) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits.  And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a bitcoin tax attorney can do for you.

Riverside County Sheriff’s Office Announces Shutdown Of Another Illegal Cannabis Enterprise

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 Raid

On February 17, 2021 the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office issued a Civic Alert that on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 investigators from the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department’s Marijuana Enforcement Team (MET) served a search warrant at an illegal marijuana cultivation operating at a private residence in the unincorporated area of Riverside County located in the 35000 block of Lynch Road, Sage CA. The search warrant was authored in response to citizen complaints about the residence.

Upon arrival, investigators located several outbuildings containing marijuana plants in various stages of growth. Additionally, investigators located a cannabis edibles manufacturing operation on the property. A further search of the property turned up a large cache of illegal weapons and over $700,000 in U.S. Currency. Employees of the operations were detained, questioned, and later released. The investigation is ongoing.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has a zero-tolerance policy for the illegal cultivation and sale of marijuana recognizing that these operations pose a great risk to neighboring residents and also negatively impacts cannabis businesses legally operating within Riverside County.

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 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.

How IRS Trains Its Agents To Conduct Audits Of Cannabis Businesses

In January 2015, the IRS issued a memo to provide guidance to its agents on conducting audits of cannabis businesses addressing whether an IRS agent can require a taxpayer trafficking in a Schedule 1 controlled substance to change its tax accounting to conform to IRC section 280E.  Not surprisingly that the IRS ruled that IRS agents have the authority to change a cannabis business’ method of accounting so that pursuant to IRC section 280E costs which should not be included in inventory are not included in Costs Of Goods Sold (“COGS”) and remain non-deductible for income tax purposes.

IRS Training Materials For Audits Of Cannabis Businesses

Recently, attorney Rachel K. Gillette released certain documents received from the IRS as a result of a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) Request she filed.  Those documents include training materials for IRS revenue and field agents on how to conduct audits of cannabis related businesses, including any documents related to how to apply IRC section 280E.  While the materials were produced in 2015 and therefore predate significant Tax Court rulings like the Harborside case and the Tax Cuts And Jobs Act of 2017 (TCJA) and the enactment of IRC section 471(c), the materials provide useful insight as to how the IRS is conducting these audits.

The main points from the IRS documents are summarized as follows:

Audit Techniques for Testing Gross Receipts

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 (“CSA”) 21 U.S.C. § 812. 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 IRC section 61(a) does not differentiate between income derived from legal sources and income derived from illegal sources.

Cannabis businesses are generally cash intensive businesses. Customers may pay in cash to protect their identity. In several states, banks have made it difficult to open accounts for known cannabis businesses. Accordingly, cannabis businesses claim that it is necessary that they deal in cash.

The main concern about cash intensive business is funds are often used to make purchases and are not accounted for by being deposited into bank accounts. Unlike checks and credit card receipts, cash does not get recorded before the funds are used. Cash funds are easily withdrawn from the safe by the taxpayer, business partner, or shareholder for personal use. Most medicinal centers deposit enough funds into bank accounts to pay rental and other expenses. If funds are used to pay business expenses, these transactions will be easier to identify than the funds used for personal expenditures. The use of an indirect method by the agent to determine income may be necessary if it appears that a taxpayer failed to report all cash sales.

Audit Techniques for Testing Expenses

Generally, businesses can deduct ordinary and necessary business expenses under IRC section 162. This includes wages, rent, supplies, etc. However, in 1982 Congress added IRC section 280E. Under IRC section 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.

The agent should inquire as to the allocation and categories of COGS reported on each return. More and more taxpayers are combining their disallowed business expenses and wages with the reported COGS.

COGS for a retailer includes only inventoriable costs capitalized under §1.471-3(b) as it existed before the enactment of IRC section 263A: The purchase price of the cannabis (net of any trade discounts), and the transportation or other necessary charges incurred in acquiring possession of the cannabis.

COGS for a grower includes inventoriable costs capitalized under §1.471-3(c) and §1.471-11 as they existed before the enactment of IRC section 263A: Direct material costs; Direct labor costs; Category 1 indirect costs (§1.471-11(c)(2)(i)), such as repairs, maintenance, rent; and possibly, Category 3 indirect costs (§1.471-11(c)(2)(iii)), such as taxes, depreciation, officers’ salaries attributable to services incident to and necessary for production operations. COGS for a grower DOES NOT include Category 2 indirect costs (§1.471-1(c)(2)(ii), such as marketing expenses, advertising expenses, selling expenses, and general and administrative expenses incident to and necessary for the taxpayer’s activities taken as a whole.

Penalty Considerations

A taxpayer who is facing increased taxes from an audit should be subject to an accuracy-related penalty under section IRC section 6662(a). A taxpayer may be liable for a 20% penalty on any underpayment of tax attributable to negligence or disregard of rules of regulations or any substantial understatement of income tax. See IRC section 6662(a) and (b)(1) and (2). “Negligence” includes any failure to make a reasonable attempt to comply with the provisions of the Code and includes “any failure by the taxpayer to keep adequate books and records or to substantiate items properly.” IRC section 6662(c). Negligence has also been defined as a lack of due care or failure to do what a reasonable person would do under the circumstances. An accuracy-related penalty does not apply, however, to any portion of an underpayment for which there was reasonable cause and where the taxpayer acted in good faith. See IRC section 6664(c)(1).

Current Developments.

On March 30, 2020, the Treasury Inspector General For Tax Administration (TIGTA) released a report to the IRS pointing them toward targeting the state-licensed cannabis industry for lost tax revenue.  The IRS has said it will implement certain recommendations in this report, specifically:

  • Develop a comprehensive compliance approach for the cannabis industry, including a method to identify businesses in this industry and track examination results;
  • Leverage publically available information at the State level and expand the use of existing Fed/State agreements to identify nonfilers and unreported income in the cannabis industry; and
  • Increase educational outreach towards unbanked taxpayers making cash deposits regarding the unbanked relief policies available.

Cannabis Tax Audits & Litigation.

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 section 280E is at the forefront of all IRS cannabis tax audits and enforcement of section 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 cannabis businesses this is challenging because of the IRC section 280E limitation. Recall that under IRC section 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 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. Working with a cannabis tax attorney can ensure that you receive the proper treatment of COGS versus ordinary and necessary expenses resulting in the lowest possible income tax liability.

In addition to IRS audits, state cannabis audits are also complex and thorough and generally include all taxes specific and nonspecific to the cannabis business. Potentially at risk is the cannabis license that enables the business to operate. State audits will focus on records regarding sales and use tax, excise taxes, and seed-to-sale tracking records.

Now if your cannabis IRS tax audit is not resolved, the results may be challenged and litigated in the U.S. Tax Court or Federal District Court. The U.S. Tax Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes over federal income taxes before final assessment and collections while the Federal District Court generally requires taxpayers to first pay the liability then seek repayment through a refund request.

Tips For Cannabis Tax Return Preparation.

Here are some tips for cannabis businesses to follow in the preparation of their 2020 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.

What Should You Do?

Ultimately it is the tax risk with IRS that could put any cannabis business “out of business” so 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), 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 Operators Deemed “Essential” in California And Are Eligible To Receive The COVID-19 Vaccine

Cannabis Retailer workers have been moved up to PHASE 1A in Governor Newsom’s COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines released February 4, 2021.

Updated COVID-19 Vaccine Allocation Guidelines

Based on available supply, individuals described below are or will be eligible for COVID-19 vaccines:

  • Phase 1A, all tiers
  • Phase 1B, Tier 1:
    • Persons 65 years of age and older
    • Sector populations: Education and Childcare, Emergency Services, Food and Agriculture.

Achieving equity

This age-based framework will be coupled with a vaccine distribution and engagement approach that prioritizes disproportionately impacted communities, settings, and populations to ensure those eligible for vaccines within these communities are more likely to receive it.

Minimizing disuse of scarce COVID-19 vaccine

To avoid wastage or disuse of scarce supplies and maximize their benefit to Californians:

  • Allocations of doses are made on the assumption that immunization will be accepted by some but not all who are offered the vaccine, and then adjust later allocations based on the number of doses that are accepted.
  • After focused and appropriate efforts to reach the groups prioritized at that moment, providers may offer vaccine promptly to persons in lower priority groups when:
    • Demand subsides in the current groups, or
    • Doses are about to expire according to labeling instructions.
  • Providers may temporarily adjust prioritization based on other resource constraints while continuing efforts to immunize higher priority groups as soon as feasible.

Phase 1A eligibility

Occupation:  Persons at risk of direct patient exposure in settings included in the Health Care and Public Health Sector from the CA Essential Workforce list. This includes both clinical and non-clinical roles.  In addition, workers who come into direct contact with the virus through research, development, manufacturing or testing are included.  Finally, workers who are manufacturing vaccine, therapeutics, devices, supplies or personal protective equipment supporting the COVID-19 response are included due to the adverse public health impact that delays in production would cause.

Section 7 of the updated guidelines provides that “Cannabis industry employees are included in Phase 1a for medicinal cannabis and Phase 1b Food and Agriculture for growing, production, storage, transport and distribution. Medical cannabis workers should be accommodated as necessary in Phase 1b, Tier 1, by nature of their designations in eligible essential workforce classifications.”

Anyone who qualifies as a worker in Phase 1A or Phase1B should contact the county where the cannabis business is located and request the vaccine.

What Are “Essential Businesses”?

State & local governments designate as “essential businesses” those businesses or firms that perform an essential government function. While the list may vary between different jurisdictions, they typically include:

  • Healthcare operations, including home health workers.
  • Essential infrastructure, including construction of housing and operation of public transportation and utilities.
  • Grocery stores, farmers markets, food banks, convenience stores.
  • Businesses that provide necessities of life for economically disadvantaged individuals and shelter facilities.
  • Pharmacies, healthcare supply stores and healthcare facilities.
  • Gas stations and auto repair facilities.
  • Garbage collection.
  • Hardware stores, plumbers, electricians, pool service, landscape maintenance, exterminators and other service providers necessary to maintain the safety, sanitation and essential operation of residences and other essential businesses.
  • Educational institutions, for the purposes of facilitating distance learning.
  • Laundromats, dry cleaners and laundry service providers.
  • Businesses that ship or deliver groceries, food and goods directly to residences.
  • Businesses that supply products needed for people to work from home, including electronic stores, mobile phone stores and office supply stores.
  • Airlines, taxis and other transportation providers offering services needed for essential activities.
  • Home-based care for seniors, adults or children.
  • Childcare facilities providing services that enable essential employees to go to work.
  • Roles required for any essential business to “maintain basic operations,” which include security, payroll and similar activities.
  • Hotels, motels and lawfully permitted vacation rentals and homesharing.

Are Cannabis Businesses “Essential Businesses”?

Again you need to check with your local jurisdiction but at the State level in California the California Department Of Health (CDPH) and the Bureau Of Cannabis Control (BCC) have issued orders making all cannabis retailers and the businesses that support them in the cannabis industry “essential” during the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing retailers, cultivators, and manufacturers to stay in operation. However, California cities and counties are able to enact their own rules regarding how patients and others may purchase cannabis so you should still check with your local government to see if any local rules apply.

All licensed cannabis businesses in good standing are included as “Essential Businesses” and must follow the existing terms of any local Order as written. Click here for the Order issued by the CDPH. Such Order typically requires that they, like all other Essential Businesses, establish practices that includes 6-foot distances between individuals, frequent 20-second hand-washing or hand-sanitizing, cough and sneeze covering, regularly cleaning high-touch surfaces, and avoiding all social greetings involving contact (handshaking, etc.). These best practices of authorized curbside pickup and contact-less delivery are expected to protect customers and employees by reducing contact.

State law still has no bearing on Federal law which declares cannabis to be illegal; but until Federal law changes, the cannabis industry will still have to bear the followings risks and challenges:

Higher Taxes Still Remain

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.

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.  Be proactive and engage an experienced Cannabis Tax Attorney in your area. Let the tax attorneys of the Law Offices Of Jeffrey B. Kahn, P.C. located in Orange County, Metropolitan Los Angeles (including Long Beach and Ontario) and other California locations protect you and maximize your net profits. And if you are involved in crypto currency, check out what a Bitcoin Tax Attorney can do for you.

Tips For Cannabis Businesses To Prepare for the 2020 Tax Filings

On January 15, 2021, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that it will process 2020 tax returns beginning February 12, 2021.

April 15th Filing Deadline.

The filing deadline to submit 2020 tax returns is Thursday, April 15, 2021.

Since the IRS will begin processing tax returns on February 12th there is no advantage to filing tax returns on paper in 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 February 12th, 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 2020 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 2020 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), Northern California (including San Francisco and Sacramento) 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.