Pubdate: Fri, 22 Jul 2016
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Press Democrat
Author: Glenda Anderson


Mendocino County voters can expect two competing marijuana tax 
initiatives on the November ballot, one proffered by county officials 
and one by cannabis cultivators.

The Mendocino County Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday a 2.5 
percent business tax on gross sales from marijuana cultivation and 
dispensaries, along with a $2,500 annual fee on marijuana 
distributors, delivery services, nurseries and testing laboratories. 
That business tax could be raised in increments of 2.5 percent up to 
a maximum of 10 percent, whether on medicinal or recreational pot.

Marijuana advocates also are proposing a 2.5 percent tax for 
medicinal pot in their Mendocino Heritage Initiative of 2016, which 
recently qualified for the ballot. Their initiative additionally 
allows a 5 percent tax on nonmedical pot.

Both initiatives' taxes would be in addition to state sales taxes.

Neither county nor heritage initiative representatives know how much 
money will be generated, in part because currently the industry is 
largely underground. But data from a one-time study conducted by the 
California Board of Equalization for Humboldt County estimated there 
was some $5.9 million in taxable marijuana sales in 2014, department 
officials said.

The heritage initiative would allow up to an acre of cannabis to be 
grown on parcels of 20 acres or more. Currently, the limit is 25 
plants per parcel with 99 allowed with a special permit from the 
sheriff's office. The initiative also allows cultivation almost 
anywhere in the unincorporated county, from land zoned suburban 
residential to timber harvest production zones. Gardens must be 
located at least 100 feet from the nearest legal, occupied residence 
that's on a separate parcel of land.

Both the initiative and the county measure were created largely in 
anticipation of new California regulations for medical marijuana and 
the anticipated passage of a statewide November ballot measure 
seeking to legalize cannabis for recreational use.

Already thriving cannabis cultivation and related businesses are 
expected to boom as pot gains mainstream acceptance and legitimacy, 
said Tim Blake, a proponent of the initiative and founder of The 
Emerald Cup competition, an annual competition that began as an 
underground harvest celebration in northern Mendocino County and has 
since expanded and moved to Sonoma County where it's known as the 
region's premier.

He expects legitimate cannabis endeavors will dwarf the wine industry 
in the future.

"It'll be as it should be, the No. 1 agricultural crop in the world," 
Blake said. The new wave of pot production will create jobs, generate 
tax revenue and increase land prices, he predicted.

The initiatives are among a slew of marijuana regulation and tax 
measures being crafted throughout the state, many in preparation for 
implementation of the state's Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety 
Act. Officials in Mendocino, Lake and Humboldt counties and the city 
of Cloverdale are among those working both on tax or regulatory 
measures or both.

Mendocino County also is working on an ordinance to regulate 
marijuana production and sales. Its proposal must go through an 
environmental impact review before it can be adopted.

Sheriff Tom Allman declined to comment specifically on the two ballot 
ballot measures, but said a sharp rise in cannabis cultivation would 
be concerning, given ongoing problems with people ignoring growing 
limits and regulations, and causing environmental degradation.

"I don't expect this to alleviate the problem," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom