Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

November 3, 2010
California communities reject Prop 19, but approve pot taxes

Across California Tuesday night, residents of the Golden State voted overwhelmingly to tax and regulate marijuana.

Even as they rejected Proposition 19, voters in at least nine cities passed more than a dozen measures authorizing taxes on local marijuana establishments.

Several measures, such as Long Beach's approval of a 15 percent tax on recreational marijuana businesses, won't take effect due to the defeat of Proposition 19. One local proposition - Rancho Cordova's vote to impose heavy taxes on personal marijuana cultivation - is inspiring threats of lawsuits from medical marijuana activists.

But many other local marijuana taxes will stand.

In Sacramento, more than 70 percent of voters approved Measure C to permit the City Council to levy taxes of up to four percent on medical marijuana dispensaries in the capital. Measure C's proposed 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana won't take effect due to Proposition 19's defeat.

In Rancho Cordova, where the City Council has disallowed medical marijuana dispensaries, 67 percent of voters approved Measure H to impose 12 to 15 percent taxes should any pot outlets open in the future.

Fifty-six percent of local voters approved Rancho Cordova's controversial Measure 0 - which would impose taxes of $600 to $900 a square foot on private marijuana cultivation.

Elsewhere in California, voters in Oakland - which last year became the first city in America to impose marijuana taxes - raised the city levy on local medical dispensaries from 1.8 percent to 5 percent.

Berkeley voters approved a measure to issue local permits for industrial marijuana cultivation and also approved a 2.5 percent tax on medical pot dispensaries. Stockton approved the same tax rate for medical pot. San Jose voters opted for a tax of up to 10 percent of pot businesses, medical or otherwise.

Voters in two cities, Santa Barbara and Morro Bay, rejected local ballot measures that would have banned medical marijuana shops.

Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana for recreational use, would have permitted local governments to impose taxes on retail pot sales - but didn't spell out what the taxes would be.

Dale Gieringer, California director of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the "yes" votes on local showed that voters like the idea of taxing pot when shown the numbers.

"It doesn't surprise me," he said. "We know it's popular to tax cannabis."

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