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Weighing the impact of Long Beach’s proposed marijuana tax

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 19:  Dave Warden, a bud tender at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, displays various types of marijuana available to patients on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California. Attorney General Eric Holder announced new guidelines today for federal prosecutors in states where the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is allowed under state law. Federal prosecutors will no longer trump the state with raids on the southern California dispensaries as they had been doing, but Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley recently began a crackdown campaign that will include raids against the facilities. Cooley maintains that virtually all marijuana dispensaries are in violation of the law because they profit from their product. The city of LA has been slow to come to agreement on how to regulate its 800 to 1,000 dispensaries. Californians voted to allow sick people with referrals from doctors to consume cannabis with the passage of state ballot Proposition 215 in 1996 and a total of 14 states now allow the medicinal use of marijuana. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
David McNew/Getty Images
Dave Warden, a bud tender at Private Organic Therapy (P.O.T.), a non-profit co-operative medical marijuana dispensary, displays various types of marijuana available to patients on October 19, 2009 in Los Angeles, California.

The city of Long Beach has proposed a new measure that would add a general tax to local businesses that distribute marijuana, should the drug be legalized statewide in November.

The city of Long Beach has proposed a new measure that would add a general tax to local businesses that distribute marijuana, should the drug be legalized statewide in November.

As reported by the Long Beach Press Telegram, Measure MA would include a 6 percent gross receipts tax on medical and non-medical marijuana businesses in the city, with the option to increase to a maximum tax rate of 8 percent. The city tax would be added to the drug’s built-in statewide tax.

The tax revenue would go to the city’s regulation of the marijuana industry. It would also fund homeless assistance programs and 9-1-1 emergency response. If the measure passes, along with statewide legalization of marijuana and a local initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Long Beach, the city predicts it would bring in $13 million annually.

But a July ballot initiative, Measure MM, proposed a rate that would not put a tax on recreational marijuana. In addition, it would impose a 6 percent tax on medical marijuana dispensaries with an option to lower the rate.

Proponents of Measure MM are concerned with patients who may not be able to afford expenses the tax would impose, and force them to buy unregulated marijuana on the black market.

Those behind the higher tax rates of Measure MA, including Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, are emphasizing the potential public safety resources that would receive more funding, should the measure pass.

Measure MA could also set a precedent for other cities, and force businesses and consumers to buy and sell marijuana in areas with lower tax rates.

What do you think about Measure MA, and how it could impact the potential sale of marijuana from city to city in California? Should recreational and medical marijuana be taxed to fund public safety programs, or is this just another way to keep people from using the drug if it becomes legalized?

Guests:

Robert Garcia, Mayor of Long Beach; he is in support of Measure MA; he tweets

Adam Hijazi, sits on the board of directors for the Long Beach Collective Association

Joel Warner, Denver-based writer and former staff writer at the International Business Times, where he covered the marijuana industry; he tweets

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