Pubdate: Tue, 23 Feb 2016
Source: Marin Independent Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Marin Independent Journal


State Sen. Mike McGuire's proposal to levy a 15 percent tax on the 
sale of medical marijuana seems to be a reach for revenue at the 
expense of those who need prescribed pot.

In 1996, California voters endorsed the "compassionate use" of 
marijuana prescribed for medical needs. There already is a sales tax 
on medical cannabis, but McGuire wants to increase it.

Last year, McGuire, Marin's representative in the Senate, helped pass 
long-needed legislation that brought legal clarity to the enactment 
of Proposition 215.

His follow-up legislation for a pot tax looks less like a solution 
than another Sacramento cash grab.

The timing comes as an initiative gathers signatures to ask voters to 
make California the latest state to legalize recreational use of 
marijuana. Taxation of pot sales and the revenue it would generate 
are among the political selling points to the initiative.

McGuire's plan follows the lead of the initiative, setting a high tax 
rate and dictating that the revenue would go to neighborhood 
improvement programs, drug and alcohol treatment, state parks and 
environmental rehabilitation.

McGuire can easily make a good point for each one of these 
beneficiaries. There is a nexus for each, but they also raise the 
question of the state's continual earmarking of tax revenue for 
specific projects. These legal links help sell them to taxpayers, but 
they also further complicate necessary budget balancing in Sacramento.

In addition, passage of last year's SB 643 also allowed local cities 
and counties to charge local tax on the sale of medical marijuana.

McGuire's bill comes down to a question of whether it is appropriate, 
or "compassionate," to put such a costly tax on medical marijuana.

This is not a matter of how much the public would tolerate. In fact, 
15 percent might be appropriate for recreational use if approved by 
state voters. But is it right to impose such a high tax on a 
substance that is supposed to be limited to people with prescriptions 
and medical needs?

McGuire deserves credit for his work in unraveling Proposition 215. 
His predecessors in Sacramento should have handled that task years 
ago, but they failed to do so.

But McGuire's proposal for a 15 percent state tax on the sale of 
medical marijuana is questionable, not so much in intent, but in 
practice. A special and higher tax on a medical need does not seem to 
abide by the "compassionate" intent of Proposition 215.
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