The Plant Dispensary Puts The Tax Onus On You!

The Plant dispensary in Woodland Hills serves medical and recreational patients with a wide variety of cannabis products displayed aesthetically in a very clean, well-lit store. The shop’s staff are friendly and helpful and prices are competitive, but beware the 29.25% medical use and 34.5% recreational use taxes the store imposes on all cannabis sales.

The Plant dispensary exterior
The Plant Dispensary Is Clean, Well-Lit, Organized, and Easily Accessed (photo: Yelp)

The Plant Dispensary Amenities & Procedures

Location & Parking

The Plant dispensary is conveniently located across from the Promenade shopping mall on Erwin Street in a high-rent neighborhood in the west San Fernando Valley. The shop sits in a large parking lot a stone’s throw from the chic, lifestyle shops, and restaurants installed along the recently refurbished Topanga Canyon Blvd. retail corridor.

The storefront, emplaced along a row of shops, is easily identified by prominent signage and products visible through large glass windows on 2 sides of the store. Customers enter from the parking lot side of the building.

Check-In Compromises Customer Privacy

Customers at The Plant dispensary are checked in by a security guard standing outside of the shop’s entrance, which is quite unusual and a little off-putting. The security guard is congenial and welcoming, but vetting customers before they enter the shop feels restrictive and intrusive and compromises customer privacy.

Friendly, Knowledgeable Staff

Staff at The Plant dispensary are friendly, knowledgeable, and generally helpful. More importantly, when my budtender didn’t have an answer to my question about Raw Garden’s Kosher Chem strain, she didn’t hesitate to ask another, more knowledgeable employee who provided a clear and informed rejoinder.

A Clean, Bright, Well-Appointed Storefront

The Plant dispensary is an exceedingly clean, bright, and well-organized shop displaying a 360-degree treasure trove of colorfully packaged cannabis products on shelves and in cases. The store is all-in-one, with no antechamber or waiting room (which probably explains why the security guard is posted outside), giving the feel of a boutique candy or beauty shop.

The Plant’s vibrant, wall-to-wall, display is pleasantly mesmerizing, creating a fun shopping environment for customers. Unfortunately, a tour of the shop was not forthcoming. I would’ve appreciated a rundown of the inventory and an overview of the shop’s layout, but none was offered nor provided. It would’ve given the budtender an opportunity to warn me about the shop’s rapine tax rates.

A Hoped-For East Valley Dispensary Analog

A desire to purchase wax on a day lacking local discounts motivated me to slog through early-morning Valley traffic to reach the attractive Woodland Hills storefront. My careful Weedmaps search revealed that The Plant’s discounts, inventory, and pricing are comparable to the East Valley dispensaries I frequent. The trek seemed an opportunity to step outside the local box, depart the dispensary comfort zone, and experience something new (and hopefully good).

FTP Discount & Raw Garden Inventory

The Plant dispensary offers a 15% first-time patient discount and maintains a healthy stock of Raw Garden live resin sauces and refined live resin cartridges, among other brands and products. The shop’s Raw Garden offerings are priced competitively and are neatly displayed, sorted by strain and organized in shallow cardboard boxes with identifying labels, making it easy for customers to navigate the inventory.

Shopping For Wax

The Plant dispensary carries wax products from several extracts manufacturers and displays them in a case near the cash register. I’d reviewed The Plant’s Weedmaps menu before making my 15-mile trek and had a shortlist in hand, so when the budtender asked what I was looking for I was able to be very specific about which Raw Garden sauces and refined live resin strains I wanted.

I bought four Raw Garden live resin sauces and a gram cartridge of the brand’s refined live resin. The Plant dispensary maintains a broad spectrum of Raw Garden products, giving aficionados like me the opportunity to purchase tried and true strains as well as those yet to be experienced. To wit, I purchased old favorites Cloud Chaser sauce, Flaming Ape #10 sauce, and a Kosher Chem cartridge, along with new-to-try Bangorang and Italian Soda sauce strains.

East vs. West Valley Dispensary Tax Rates

Customary Rates

Cannabis dispensaries are abundant in my east San Fernando Valley stomping grounds. The North Hollywood, Sun Valley, Sylmar, and Studio City shops previously reviewed here each feature distinguishing strengths worthy of one’s continued patronage.

None of these dispensaries are perfect, but all have in common something essential and meaningful to cannabis consumers: They don’t charge more than 24.25% medical tax and 29.5% recreational tax. Some of the East Valley shops, like Sun Valley Caregivers, only charge medical customers the 15% excise tax.

Dispensary Wisdom: Absorb Some Taxes To Elicit Return Business

East Valley cannabis tax rates are consistent, remaining at the aforementioned levels, providing residents with realistic expectations about the taxes they’ll incur at a dispensary. Canna-businesses here wisely compete for customers by offering premiums, deals, discounts, and tax breaks to maintain customer patronage.

Tax breaks are a proven, effective means for dispensaries to demonstrate customer appreciation and elicit return business. Even without such breaks, the full, customary 24.25%, and 29.5% tax rates are also acceptable, fair, and totally reasonable.

But imposing on consumers higher than customary tax rates, as The Plant dispensary does, rather than giving customers a break, or at least charging the customary rates, seems counterintuitive and unwise, if not patently foolish.

The PLANT vs. The WEED

The Similarities

The Plant dispensary and Studio City’s The WEED (Project Cannabis) are both fully-stocked shops selling diverse arrays of cannabis varieties, brands, and strains. Each dispensary maintains large selections of Raw Garden live resin sauces and refined live resin cartridges. The Plant and The WEED are both very clean, well-lit, and orderly, and price their wares competitively. Both dispensaries are located in high-rent shopping districts and offer ample, free, customer parking.

The WEED Dispensary In Studio City Gives Customers Tax Breaks
The Differences

There are other similarities and a few inconsequential differences, but the most significant factor differentiating The Plant from The WEED is the tax each passes on to customers. The WEED charges medical customers only the 15% excise tax, based on a medical consumer ceiling of 24.25%. The Plant charges medical customers a totally unreasonable 29.25% tripartite tax that when “compounded,” as The Plant calls it, imposes an untenable financial burden on customers.

Devil Is In The Details

Unfortunately, I wasn’t attuned to The Plant’s tax rates until it was time to pay. When I saw the total, I experienced sticker shock like never before. I couldn’t understand why the bill was so high.

The Plant dispensary does delineate 3 different cannabis taxes on its Weedmaps menu in the details section. The annotated aside lists excise, adult use, and medical tax rates, but doesn’t specify that the shop imposes all. It was a missed warning that should’ve given me pause. But I had no reason to expect that any dispensary that values its customers and differentiates between commerce and cannabis would burden consumers with such extreme impounds.

What, Exactly, Is The Plant Dispensary Thinking?

The Plant’s onerous tax scheme begs the question of whether the store management actually values its customers or understands what’s at stake vis-a-vis customer solvency and the long term survival of the cannabis industry. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

29.25% Medical Tax Sticker Shock

My first-time patient experience at The Plant dispensary was largely pleasant and rewarding until it was time to pay. The total cost, including the shop’s intrusive taxes, was almost $30 more than expected. I was incredulous, to say the least.

Cannabis Taxes, Los Angeles
Cannabis Taxes, Los Angeles, CA (Photo: Hopegrown website)
Willful Ignorance? Or Just Clueless?

The budtender attempted to assuage my incredulity by patiently reviewing my purchases, explaining discounts and individual prices. But her explanation failed to account for the unreasonably high taxes. She kept asserting that I was saving 5% in taxes, which made no sense. How was I saving money when I was paying higher taxes than are customarily charged elsewhere?

The budtender failed to explain that The Plant dispensary imposes all 3 excise and sales taxes on customers, whereas many other dispensaries, especially those in the East Valley, impose only 1 or 2 of the taxes.

In hindsight, the budtender’s incomplete, though seemingly genuine, explanation begs more inquiry: Are staff at The Plant dispensary even aware that comparable dispensaries in the Valley only charge medical consumers between 15% and 24.25% tax? Or are they intentionally withholding that information, essentially gaslighting naive and inexperienced customers?

Making Sense Of The Senseless

I left The Plant feeling unsure about my shopping experience. Back in my car, I scrutinized the receipt, calculating different tax rates, until it finally hit me. I was charged the 15% excise tax and the 9.5% state sales tax, in addition to a 5% Los Angeles medical tax.

WTF Is Compounding And What Does It Have To Do With Cannabis?

The 29.25% tax rate doesn’t alone account for all of the taxes added to my bill. The store manager in a phone call later that day reiterated a phrase the budtender had snuck into our earlier exchange. The manager decried “compounding” as the reason for the amounts charged above and beyond the shop’s excessive medical rate.

The Plant dispensary fails to take responsibility for this excess, instead blaming a fictionalized, malicious, villain, called “compounding”? Customers who take exception to and feel the pinch of excessive tax rates have only “compounding” to blame. “Don’t blame us; blame “compounding.”

Seriously? WTF?

I feel sorry for any of The Plant’s customers who fall for such pathetic gaslighting. “Compounding” is a bullshit term that doesn’t happen at other dispensaries, or at businesses of any sort, for that matter. The Plant dispensary simply exploits its customers, treating them like idiots, taking their money, hand over fist. Such business practices represent the worst of the legal cannabis industry. Either build the excess into the purchase price or eat it. Don’t bait customers with low list prices only to slam them with back-end shenanigans.

The Manager Defends The Indefensible

When I arrived home, I called The Plant, conveyed my confusion, and asked a manager to clarify The Plant’s taxes. The manager asserted that 29.25% is the normal medical cannabis tax in Los Angeles. She offered, as if some kind of consolation, that “compounding” is an additional factor increasing the total tax even more. She was repeating the same talking point as the budtender. Clearly, I’m not the only patient questioning The Plant’s taxation scheme.

When one dines at a restaurant, are the sales taxes “compounded”? If one buys bulk items at Costco or a DVD at Amoeba, are the sales taxes “compounded”? Should one go to an east-side dispensary, will the sales taxes be “compounded”?

I didn’t think so.

Narrative Doesn’t Hold Up

The Plant dispensary manager was calm and courteous while trying to justify the shop’s tax regime. She suggested, anecdotally, that dispensaries charging medical patients only 15% tax make up for breaks with higher prices.

The manger’s assumption – her narrative – her line – is demonstrably false, however. Perhaps she’s never ventured out of the West Valley to assess the competition. Maybe she doesn’t realize how out of step The Plant dispensary really is.

For example, Sun Valley Caregivers sells Raw Garden sauce for about $32 per gram, while The WEED charges $35. Both shops only charge the 15% excise tax. The Plant sells Raw Garden sauce for $36 but charges 29.25% medical tax. While Sun Valley Caregivers presumably enjoys less overhead due to its location (and thus can pass the savings on to customers), The WEED is installed in no less a high-rent zone than The Plant, yet charges 15% less in taxes.

So why can’t The Plant follow The WEED’s lead? A rhetorical question. The store chooses not to provide customers with such incentives. I respect The Plant’s choice, just as they must respect my decision to shop for cannabis elsewhere.

Repeating Talking Points Doesn’t Make Them True

The Plant dispensary manager repeated the budtender’s earlier attempted misdirection by again claiming I was saving 5% in taxes. This is just dumb. The Plant could’ve charged me any amount and called it a discount because less than some arbitrary, higher number.

Dispensaries that gaslight customers with tales of non-existent savings are antithetical to everything worthy and promising about the cannabis industry. The fact is that there’s no meaningful, existential justification for imposing 29.25% tax on medical cannabis consumers – only the legal and transactional. Misleading narratives like this “5% savings” fable border on the unethical and will succeed only until consumers realize they’re being overcharged and choose to shop elsewhere.

Budtender Fail: Product Expiration Dates

Bangarang: 3 Weeks From Expiration Date

When I’d arrived home and reviewed my purchases from The Plant dispensary I noticed a grey-framed label on the Bangorang sauce box and took a closer look. I was taken aback by the sauce’s October 3 “best by” date. I had no idea I purchased a product so close to expiration. The budtender failed to alert me that the Bangorang sauce was quite old and would expire in only 3 weeks.

Raw Garden Bangorang live resin box
Raw Garden Bangorang Live Resin Is Almost Expired
Raw Garden To The Rescue

Fortunately, Raw Garden produces quality extracts that endure over time without degenerating in any meaningful way. I recently (and knowingly) purchased a soon-to-expire Raw Garden Margarita sauce at Sun Valley Caregivers that remained potent, aromatic, and flavorful. I was ok with the date because the budtender, Chris, warned me about the expiration date beforehand and offered a 20% discount from the purchase price due to the age. This is the correct way to sell such products.

The Plant dispensary offered me no such warning nor discount, the budtender’s failure to do so being another example of the shop’s abdication of its role as consumer guide and advocate. I strongly suggest The Plant’s management takes a hint and considers emulating Sun Valley Caregivers’ proper handling of such situations.

Budtender Responsibilities

A budtender’s function, first and foremost, is as patient advocate and guide. There’s no room for equivocation. Cannabis consumers rely on budtenders for responsible, informed, honest direction. Withholding essential information and gouging customers with unreasonably high taxes adds insult to injury in a cannabis industry wholly dependent on consumers for its long term survival.

A customer’s best interest should be every dispensary’s, and every budtender’s, transactional focus and operating principle. Any budtender or shop not protecting customer interests, and not guiding patrons to the best, most affordable cannabis, is taking advantage of and failing, consumers, imperiling the industry as a whole.

Final Thoughts

A Purely Transactional Experience

Prices, inventory, and staffing are The Plant’s highlights. But despite the pricing, inventory, and friendly staff, the consumer experience at The Plant dispensary is purely transactional. The dispensary looks out for its own financial interests. It passes all taxes on to customers to subsidize its tony location, failing to protect and advocate for consumers.

Caveat Emptor

All I can say to my West Valley compatriots about The Plant is caveat emptor. I invite all cannabis denizens in Woodland Hills, West Hills, Canoga Park, Calabassas, etc., to visit dispensaries in Studio City, or Sun Valley, or North Hollywood, or Sylmar. Out here, cannabis consumers enjoy competitive pricing, robust inventories, and friendly staff, without being taxed unreasonably.

There’s a win-win, customer-dispensary dynamic in play out here that values and respects consumers while maintaining profits. It isn’t perfect, but it is cannabis commerce as it’s meant to be. A mutually meaningful and productive experience, not a highly taxed transaction.

Primitive Zippo
Doing high dives into the California cannabis industry, cannabis culture, cannabis-friendly music and anything else cannabis-related residing in the vast expanse of my turgid cranium.

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