Pubdate: Sat, 13 Aug 2016
Source: Press Democrat, The (Santa Rosa, CA)
Copyright: 2016 The Press Democrat
Author: Guy Kovner


Two North Coast Legislators' Medical Pot Tax Bills Go Down to Defeat

Two medical marijuana tax proposals submitted by North Coast 
lawmakers have failed in Sacramento, leaving California voters to 
decide on higher taxes incorporated in a pot legalization measure on 
the November ballot.

The tax rates in Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, 
exceed the rates in the two failed bills by state Sen. Mike McGuire 
and Assemblyman Jim Wood, both Healdsburg Democrats whose districts 
include the pot-rich Emerald Triangle.

Wood, who said he was stunned by the rejection Thursday of his 
proposed excise tax on medical cannabis distribution, said the rate 
built into the legalization measure is "higher and harder on the 
industry than what I proposed."

The ballot measure sets a $9.25 per ounce tax on marijuana flowers, 
while Wood's bill, following some amendments, set rates of $4.75, 
$9.25 and $13.25 per ounce based on cultivation volume, a scale he 
said was intended to give smaller growers a break.

Similarly, the ballot measure sets a 15 percent sales tax on all 
marijuana sales, medical and non-medical, while McGuire's bill 
originally stipulated 15 percent but was amended down to 10 percent 
on medical marijuana.

Both legislators said their bills were adjusted to treat the cannabis 
industry fairly, while raising millions of dollars to help state and 
local governments pay for the costs of law enforcement and cleaning 
up the environmental damage from illicit cultivation.

McGuire's bill, the Marijuana User Fee Act, would have added a 10 
percent levy to the existing state sales tax of about 8 percent on 
all medical marijuana purchases. Eighty percent of the proceeds would 
go the state, with 30 percent earmarked for both the general fund and 
a grant program for local agencies, and 20 percent for both state 
parks and local drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Wood's bill, the Medical Cannabis Tax Law, would have included a 
$1.25 tax on each immature pot plant and was expected to raise nearly 
$80 million a year, with 90 percent earmarked for local law 
enforcement, environmental cleanup and a watershed enforcement team.

State budget analysts said the adult legalization measure would trim 
state criminal justice spending by millions of dollars and generate 
up to $1 billion in taxes.

"The decision is now in the hands of the voters," McGuire said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom