Amber Senter understands what it takes for social equity operators to succeed in cannabis, having dedicated years of her life to helping victims of the War on Drugs succeed in California’s cannabis industry.
But now more than ever, simply surviving in California’s heavily contested, highly regulated and taxed-half-to-death cannabis market is a difficult task. Add in the complications from the unrelenting pandemic, lack of aid from the state and an increasing number of armed robberies afflicting Bay Area cannabis businesses and then it seems downright impossible.
Yet, somehow, Senter is juggling responsibilities with three enterprises: She’s the CEO of MAKR House, a distribution and infused cannabis products company; she’s the co-founder, executive director and chairman of the nonprofit Supernova Women, which has worked to empower women of color in the cannabis industry since 2015; and she’s the manager of Equity Works! Incubator, a shared manufacturing facility for social equity operators in Oakland (and one of nearly two dozen area businesses that were burglarized during a recent spate of crime).
On January 13, Supernova Women joined the advocacy group Origins Council to rally for cannabis tax reform at the capitol building in Sacramento. Senter and her colleagues hope the Legislature will repeal the excise tax for social equity retailers and eliminate the cultivation tax before the budget deadline of July 1, 2022.
Despite the crashing price of cannabis, the cultivation tax was just increased to $161 per pound, and though there is legislation in play to help growers, little is being done to help the social equity retailers that are fighting to stay open in such a turbulent marketplace.
“We’ve just got find a champion that is willing to get behind the excise tax,” Senter says. “Then it’s just a matter of gaining support from there.”