Joe Airone has run a donation-based medical marijuana collective since 1996. Sweetleaf has delivered free medical cannabis to the doorsteps of hundreds of low-income, terminally ill patients in San Francisco. But when marijuana was legalized this year, Airone was forced to close up shop.
That left more than a hundred low-income, terminally ill Bay Area residents without access to medication. Ed Gallagher, who suffers from HIV/AIDS that has left him blind and nearly deaf, isn’t sure when his next delivery will come.
Under the new laws, cannabis businesses are required to pay taxes on all products, including donations. Non-commercial programs like Sweetleaf aren’t distinguished from commercial businesses. According to Airone, his collective delivered over 100 pounds of cannabis, donated to him from cultivators in Humboldt County, to 150 patients last year. But under current law, Airone would have to pay over $50,000 in taxes on 100 pounds he’s not making any return on.
Meanwhile, Airone has been gathering signatures to support new statewide regulations to protect donation-based programs. A number of state officials have recognized it’s a problem and are in the process of negotiating new language for the laws. But no one knows how long the wait will be, and patients like Gallagher are trying to make their latest deliveries last.