Pubdate: Fri, 03 Jun 2016
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Press Democrat
Author: Paul Payne,The Press Democrat


Bills from North Coast lawmakers to tax and regulate medical marijuana
advanced this week in the state capitol with bi-partisan support of
the legislature.

Two proposals -- tax measures from state Sen. Mike McGuire and
Assemblyman Jim Wood, both Healdsburg Democrats -- won the required
two-thirds majorities in their respective houses and move on for
further consideration.

McGuire's bill, SB 987, would place a 15 percent sales tax on medical
cannabis. It would come in addition to an existing 8 percent tax and
is expected to generate more than $100 million. About a third of the
money would go to cities and counties for costs associated with
medical pot.

Wood's bill, AB 2243, would place a $9.25 per ounce excise tax on
flowers or buds, a $2.75 per ounce tax on leaves and a $1.25 tax in
immature plants from nurseries. It is expected to raise $80 million
annually for local police, environmental cleanup and tax relief for
private landowners who keep their property undeveloped.

A second bill from Wood passed in the Assembly this week would create
a new cultivator license for micro-farmers with growing operations
smaller than 2,500 square feet. Under current law, small pot growers
are lumped in with larger producers.

"It's a tremendous achievement for either author to get Republican
support for their tax," said Paul Ramey, Wood's spokesman. "That can't
be overstated."

Some marijuana activists oppose Wood's taxes as unreasonably high,
saying the flower tax alone would be 10 percent of marijuana's value.

All the proposed legislation applies to medical marijuana only. It
would go away if voters in November approve a ballot initiative
legalizing pot for recreational use, Ramey said.

A study released in April by the California Public Policy Institute
said 55 percent of likely voters support legal recreational marijuana,
up from 49 percent five years ago. An unsuccessful 2010 ballot measure
received only 46 percent of the vote.

Barring broader legalization, the McGuire and Wood proposals would
help form the statewide regulatory framework for continued cultivation
and sale of medical marijuana.

Wood is also co-author of a bill that would refine AB 1575, the
Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. That bill would clarify
licensing and regulation of medical pot.

Law enforcement expressed support for Wood's tax bill, which would
help pay for costs associated with growing marijuana.

"As chief of a city greatly impacted by cannabis, I appreciate
Assemblyman Wood moving this bill forward to get those communities hit
hardest by illegal cannabis cultivation the help we need," Eureka
police Chief Andrew Mills said in a written statement from Wood.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D