Are Oakland’s Cannabis Taxes Too High?

When asked to describe the city of Oakland’s approach to taxing cannabis businesses, James Anthony opts for a colorfully blunt analogy.

“They insist on boiling the frog backwards,” Anthony explains. “Their fucking idea of how to boil a frog is to get the water boiling, fling that poor little bastard in there, and tell him that it’s OK because you’ll turn the heat down in a couple of years.”

In this case, the frog is any cannabis business operating in Oakland. The boiling water? That would be the city’s 10-percent tax on gross receipts for adult use sales — the highest such rate in California. (San Francisco’s voters approved Proposition D last fall, which caps rates at 5 percent, while Santa Rosa’s rate cap is even lower at 3 percent.)

The reason for this profound discrepancy stretches back nearly a decade. In 2010, Oakland passed a ballot measure

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