East Bay region of San Francisco approves marijuana tax

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Contra Costa County, California will introduce a new tax on marijuana sales, as well as cultivation

On the ballot yesterday for Contra Costa County voters was an item that looked to determine whether or not the county would collect taxes on marijuana-related issues. Measure R was estimated to bring a windfall to the county, generating between $1.7 million and $4.4 million annually. Residents liked the way that sounded and approved the measure by an overwhelming majority.

The measure was passed by 72% of the county’s voters. It will introduce a 4% tax on gross receipts in unincorporated parts of the county, as well as a tax of $7 on every square foot of garden canopy at grow facilities. It does not impact any of the businesses that operate within the boundaries of incorporated cities, such as Walnut Creek, Richmond or Concord, where local policies will be determined by those cities’ respective governments.

Proponents of the bill argued, in addition to the economic benefits, that illegal cannabis growth and sales have contributed to a decline in public safety. They also pointed out how the illegal operations cause environmental damage and can harm watersheds and open spaces.

As always, the measure wasn’t without controversy. Opponents, led by the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, filed a motion that stated that the obligations and costs associated with compliance of California’s cannabis laws would lead to further black market activity and that it could boost drug cartels. It also tried to argue that Measure R shouldn’t be allowed because it marijuana legalization goes against federal laws. It obviously fails to understand that the states have constitutional rights to develop certain policies for their territories.

Marijuana continues to be accepted by more jurisdictions across the country. It is only a matter of time before the federal government establishes policies, as well, and local governments and administrators would do better to use their time and resources developing policies to support the thriving industry.