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Cities eye taxes on marijuana

  • Aimee Polacci, the garden resources manager at Peace through Medicine Healing Center in Sebastopol, arranges marijuana plant clones on Monday. The medical marijuana dispensary believes contributing to the town budget through taxation increases the acceptance of its patients. (JOHN BURGESS/The Press Democrat)

If California voters want to legalize it, Larry Robinson wants to tax it.

The Sebastopol councilman is asking his fellow city leaders to consider ways to tax marijuana sales if California voters approve a measure on the November ballot that would legalize pot.

The council is scheduled to discuss the idea at its meeting Tuesday night, joining a growing number of cities intrigued by the bottom-line benefits of taxing marijuana.

Robinson said he's not asking the council to take a stance on legalizing recreational use of cannabis. He just wants the city to position itself to move quickly if voters approve the November ballot measure, which would allow adults to possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana.

“It's just recognizing that there's a relatively good chance that this initiative will pass,” Robinson said. “I just want the city of Sebastopol to be in the best possible position to both regulate and tax it.”

Robinson is proposing to place a measure before Sebastopol voters in November that would authorize the city to tax marijuana sales. The council must vote on the concept by August to make the ballot.

Robinson said he envisions a 1 percent to 2 percent local tax on all marijuana sales, both on existing sales of medical marijuana and potential future sales of pot for recreational use.

Rich Maloney, who purchases medical marijuana at the only cannabis dispensary in Sebastopol, Peace in Medicine Healing Center, said he would be willing to pay more if pot was taxed by local government. The state already taxes sales of medical marijuana.

He credits cannabis for getting him off a host of narcotics that he began taking after breaking his leg in a motorcycle accident a year and a half ago.

Robert Jacob, executive director of Peace in Medicine, which soon plans to open another clinic in Sebastopol, said he also welcomes paying more taxes.

The more the nonprofit business contributes to the community, the more people see it as a local asset, he said.

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