by Renzo Pocasangreon April 29, 2023
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Catalyst Cannabis, a local business in Long Beach, focuses on giving back to the community despite heavy regulations and taxation from the city.
Party on Pine was a block party hosted by Elliot Lewis, CEO of Catalyst Cannabis, which focused on uplifting the community and reviving a once lively Pine Avenue, packed with businesses. The family-friendly event brought together various local and licensed vendors together, and all proceeds went straight to revitalizing Pine Avenue.
However, increased regulation fees imposed by the city pressured Lewis to shut down the event.
“They made it super cost prohibited,” Lewis said. “They wanted 11 fucking cops all on overtime, to watch a party that had zero incidents.”
Catalyst has worked to bridge the community together through various events and its outreach branch of Catalyst Cares. This outreach program has provided services and products such as backpacks, food and even Christmas trees around the holidays.
People aren’t seeing the Catalyst Cares side of it,” Lewis said. “Catalyst Cares really is the heartbeat of who we are.”
A box with Catalyst Cares stickers sat in the front lobby for customers to participate in their book drive donations. Each Catalyst location partakes in various localized community outreach endeavors. Photo credit: Renzo Pocasangre
Despite the small setbacks with the cancellation of Party on Pine, Lewis continues pushing forward and garnering momentum on their weed for the people movement.
Catalyst has long been working within the legal guidelines provided by both the Senate and the Department of Cannabis Control to help distribute free cannabis to patients in need.
The Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act works as the framework of regulation for the Department of Cannabis Control. Catalyst Cares acts as a conduit to help provide medicinal cannabis at least once a month for medical patients in need as written in the law.
Legislative Senate Bill No. 34 states “existing administrative law provides an exception to this prohibition for specified medicinal retailers and microbusiness licensees to provide access to medicinal cannabis patients who have difficulty accessing medicinal cannabis goods, as specified.”
Many of the shops Catalyst now manages across California were previously independent dispensaries that were drawn toward Catalyst’s mission. Lewis and the whole of Catalyst’s extensive staff have taken on the role of advocates for other localized cannabis businesses across California.
The first Catalyst shop was located in East Long Beach and took the title Catalyst Eastside. There are currently 17 Catalyst locations across California. Photo credit: Renzo Pocasangre
Catalyst’s most recent victory was April 18 at the Long Beach City Council meeting, where city council members voted unanimously to provide qualifying Long Beach cannabis dispensaries with a new tax-relief program.
Catalyst continues to struggle with excessive taxation on local businesses, even within a progressive city like Long Beach. Big cities like Long Beach have been continuously increasing taxes, which directly affects cannabis workers and sellers in the city, driving more and more customers to buy illicitly.
“The little cities are a little more sympathetic to if they want to make 5% in tax and they need the money to plug the shortfalls, then fine,” Lewis said. “As I looked into the budgets here and I started speaking out, that’s when we got the heat, this is unique to Long Beach.”
Taxes are often the primary reason legal cannabis prices have skyrocketed, especially in the city of Long Beach, which passed Measure MA in 2016, the same year cannabis was legalized in California. Measure MA is one of various local cannabis taxes unique to Long Beach that dispensaries must pay in order to be considered in the legal market.
“Their version of equity is something that gets them votes,” Lewis said. “It’s not equitable to take money from people that make $70,000 to $80,000 a year, basically confiscate their property and give it to public sector unions to keep you in power that live in fucking South Orange County.”
Measure MA sets a 6% to 8% tax on medical marijuana gross receipts, 8% to 12% tax on recreational marijuana, 6% to 8% percent on distribution, processing, transportation, or testing of marijuana and $12 to $15 taxation per square foot of cultivation.
All of these added surcharges directly affect local bud tenders and cannabis specialists from achieving the goal of living wages.
These actions threaten the livelihood of many that work under the legitimate business of Catalyst Cannabis and those that believe in Lewis’ outspoken movement for weed for the people.
Catalyst Cares is the branch of Catalyst that works to enact community focused and progressive plans towards creating social equity. Photo credit: Renzo Pocasangre
Catalyst is a miracle-child of the cannabis industry that managed to stay afloat by raising money through organically built locations across California. The unwonted success of Lewis’ business has placed him in a unique position to represent local cannabis shop owners throughout California.
Long Beach officials did not respond upon reaching out for comment.