Lake County sends medical cannabis tax to the November ballot
Lake County supervisors Tuesday voted 3-1 to place a cannabis tax on the November ballot, joining a growing number of California cities and counties seeking financial compensation for overseeing pot production.
If approved by voters, Lake County’s ballot measure would impose an annual license tax on commercial medical marijuana cultivation in the unincorporated areas of the county.
It ranges from $1 per square foot for outdoor-only cultivation to $3 per square foot for indoor-only operations. Mixed, indoor-outdoor cannabis growing operations would pay $2 a square foot.
People growing medicinal marijuana for personal use and caregivers growing for five or fewer people would be exempt from the tax, which could generate an estimated $8 million annually for the county.
The money would be for general uses, but is expected to help offset the costs of regulating and policing marijuana cultivation.
“Right now we’re expending scarce public resources with nothing in return,” Lake County Supervisor Anthony Farrington said during an interview prior to the vote.
The tax has the support of the Lake County Growers Association, a marijuana farming group, said its president Michael Green.
The association is considering writing a ballot argument in favor of the tax, he said.
Supervisor Rob Brown was the lone vote against placing the tax on the ballot.
“There are more legitimate industries we could embrace,” he said before the vote.
He believes implementing the tax measure will cost more than it generates and the money would be better spent elsewhere, including helping victims of last year’s devastating fires.
Last month, Mendocino County placed a cannabis tax measure on the November ballot. Humboldt County supervisors followed suit Tuesday and Cloverdale is expected to vote on a tax this week. Mendocino County’s and Cloverdale’s proposed taxes are based on gross sales rather than size of operations.
Cities and counties throughout the state are moving toward taxing cannabis in the wake of the state’s passage of the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which authorizes such taxes.
The act, yet to be fully implemented, sets up a regulatory framework for commercial cultivation, manufacture, retail sales, transportation, distribution and testing of medical cannabis.
The state plans to implement a 15 percent excise tax on medical marijuana, a tax that would extend to recreational marijuana if that use is approved by voters in November.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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