Passage of Measure B on Tuesday’s ballot will open the door to allow the commercial indoor growing of marijuana in the unincorporated areas of San Joaquin County outside of cities.
The measure imposes a tax on such operations. It requires two thirds approval to pass.
Advocates for the tax as well as the commercial growing of marijuana have been campaigning for yes votes on Measure B through the Save and Clean Neighborhood for Kids Committee.
The tax — which does not apply to legal marijuana grows for personal consumption — imposes a rate of between 3.5 and 8 percent on gross receipts. There is also a $2 per square foot cultivation space tax that is adjusted annually based on the Consumer Price Index. The measure calls for the tax rate to be set at 3.5 percent unless the Board of Supervisors acts to change it. The highest rate that can legally be charged is 8 percent.
Based on the San Joaquin County Cannabis Project website, the county estimates the annual tax revenue will be $2,302,750 if the tax rate is 5 percent and the county approves 20 licenses.
In the initial year, 30 percent of the receipts will be issued to childhood programs with 70 percent going to public safety, health and enforcement issues dealing with marijuana. The childhood program funding will increase by 5 percent each year until the fifth year when the fund will be split 50-50.
The type of childhood programs eligible for the funding include children’s literacy, gang reduction, after-school programs, and drug prevention.
The measure is crafted not as a referendum per se on whether legal commercial grows should be allowed in unincorporated areas of San Joaquin County but whether a tax should be imposed should the Board of Supervisors make it legal to grow pot commercially.
The county is currently going through the process of establishing rules via the zoning code regulating such operations. The board ultimately will decide whether to legalize grows. In other words, if Measure B fails it doesn’t stop the Board of Supervisors from proceeding with allowing commercial marijuana growing operations.
All seven cities within San Joaquin County have banned commercial growing of marijuana
Supporters argue the tax allows the county to cover its costs in regulating commercial marijuana grows. They also argue it will provide a source of additional funds to help provide childhood programs. A special tax oversight committee will make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors on how the funds for childhood programs should be allocated.
Proponents such as Supervisor Chuck Winn of Ripon, Supervisor Bob Elliott of Tracy, Lodi Mayor Alan Nakanishi, and Manteca Mayor Steve DeBrum point to Colorado statistics that show there was a 20 percent increase in marijuana consumption by minors after pot was legalized while at the same time there was a 4 percent decline nationwide of youth used of marijuana.
They contend that the county allowing commercial grows will increase marijuana use among minors within the county even though marijuana has been legal for those 21 years an older for more than a year in California.
In more of an apples and apples comparison, they point to Calaveras County that last spring banned all commercial marijuana farming in the county after approving medical marijuana commercial growing two years prior. The reason for the reversal was the advent of legal commercial grows attracted a large number of illegal growers. That in turn created crime issues as well as quality of life and safety issues those living near marijuana grows.
Calaveras County took in more than $10 million in taxes from the legal grows but now faces environmental clean-up issues that will cost them significantly more than that to address.
The tax would apply to all marijuana grown commercially whether it is for medical or non-medical purposes. The gross receipt tax applies to cultivating, distribution, storing, testing, and selling marijuana.
The county does not plan to make outdoor commercial cultivation or cannabis events legal.
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