As I sat at a Sonoma Hills Farm banquet table laden with food earlier this summer, I reflected on the information shared with guests before dinner regarding compassionate cannabis donations. The Chron Vivant and Chef Luke Reyes “Garden to Table” low-dose, cannabis-infused dinner brought together food, cannabis and compassion, and was designed to reach media and social media influencers alike in order to shed light on a little-discussed issue.
Compassionate cannabis donations have been nearly eliminated in the California regulatory and tax environment of 2018, in which compassion programs are burdened by extensive taxation meant for corporations. One such organization that has been adversely impacted is Sweetleaf Collective; since 1996, Sweetleaf has been a donation-based organization that provides free medical cannabis — 100 pounds in 2017 alone — via bicycle delivery to 150 low-income, terminally ill patients with HIV/AIDS and cancer in and around the Bay Area.
Joe Airone is the founder and director of Sweetleaf Collective. He has been an activist in the Bay Area for more than 20 years, working with groups that provide food to the elderly, shelter to the homeless, and cannabis to low-income, terminally ill people. Airone ran a community art center in San Francisco’s Mission District for five years, and he also founded the Humanitarian Circus — his last mission brought him to the island of Lesbos, where he performed for Syrian refugee children after they made the harrowing journey from Turkey to Greece.
At the time of this writing, SB-829 (the bill to effectively remove all taxes from cannabis donations in California) has been approved by the Assembly and Senate — a feat to celebrate. After the bill receives a sign-off from Governor Jerry Brown, the Bureau of Cannabis Control will regulate a compassionate care program, and organizations such as Sweetleaf can apply for a non-commercial license, allowing them to avoid taxes on cannabis donations.Tell your representatives and our Governor that California needs to allow cannabis compassion programs to operate, and share this cause with your community in any way you can.