The Long Beach Collective Association, a network of cannabis businesses, is providing free marijuana and other cannabis products to those who need it most, but can’t afford the high prices of boutique dispensaries.
Through its Compassionate Cannabis Program, medical marijuana patients who qualify as low income or veterans will be able to receive packages containing free products to alleviate their medical conditions at participating LBCA dispensaries.
This program was made possible by California Senate Bill No. 34, which allows businesses licensed for cannabis retail “to provide access to medicinal cannabis patients who have difficulty accessing medicinal cannabis goods.” SB 34 was approved on Oct. 12, 2019. Products that are donated to medical patients through Compassionate Care Programs are also exempt from tax under SB 34.
“It is vital for the health and safety of vulnerable and low-income medicinal cannabis patients to keep them off the black market by allowing these compassionate care donations,” the bill states.
Cannabis products are taxed in total at 18.25% in Long Beach for recreational users, and 16.25% for medical users, one of the highest rates when compared to surrounding cities such as Wilmington, Torrance, Gardena and Compton. Long Beach City’s sales tax accounts for 10.25% of both the recreational and medical tax rates, according to Pam Chotiswatdi of the LBCA.
According to the Mayo Clinic, THC has been shown to be effective in lessening the nausea and vomiting experienced by those undergoing chemotherapy. Medical marijuana may also help lessen eye pressure caused by glaucoma, pain levels in patients experiencing nerve pain due to illnesses such as HIV and muscle stiffness and spasms in multiple sclerosis patients.
“Now we’re able to get products to the people that are most in need of those products for medicinal reasons,” Adam Hijazi of LBCA told the Signal Tribune, “in a compassionate way in regards to the costs.”
Compassionate Cannabis Programs in California were first made possible in 1996 under the Compassionate Use Act, which legalized medical cannabis use in California despite continued federal prohibition.
However, when recreational marijuana was legalized in California with the passing of Proposition 64 in 2016, it required that cannabis businesses pay taxes on all cannabis products obtained by consumers, even free products given away as donations to patients.
This made it extremely costly for businesses to continue supporting and donating to Compassionate Cannabis Programs. Not only would a business be giving away free merchandise, but would also be losing additional money in taxes for every donation they made.
With the passing of SB 34, a revival of Compassionate Cannabis Programs has begun across California.
“We’re glad that the state did that,” Hijazi said. “And we’re extremely proud that, on LBCA’s level, we’re going to roll out this program that will really go to helping [those] the most in need of cannabis products.”
To apply for LBCA’s Compassionate Cannabis Program online, applicants must be Long Beach residents and submit their Medical Cannabis Recommendation. They will also be asked their total monthly income as well as total monthly expenses.
There is also a separate questionnaire only for those with veteran status that asks applicants to identify which branch of the armed forces they served in, and their years of service.
Applicants will also be asked to describe how and how often they use cannabis products to treat their medical conditions. Methods of cannabis consumption vary from person to person, with some patients preferring to vaporize, ingest or apply THC or CBD topically, rather than smoke it.
Because of this, LBCA hopes to receive a wide range of different cannabis products from businesses and brands that want to help patients in need.
According to an Instagram post by LBCA, one of its members, the brand Cannavis, which creates THC laden syrups, will be leading the Compassionate Care Program.
Businesses and brands willing to donate free cannabis products to be distributed through LBCA’s Compassionate Cannabis Program can contact the association through its website, or through its Instagram and Twitter pages, @thelbca.
“We’re also looking for a lot of different products because everybody has a different cannabis regimen that they use for their different ailments,” Chotiswatdi said in a social media video educating the public about the Compassionate Cannabis Program. “Not everybody smokes, not everybody uses a topical or a tincture. Everybody does something different for them. So we really […] want to tailor what people need in their packages when they pick them up.”