California Town Rejects Marijuana Tax, For Now

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Photo: John Burgess/The Press Democrat
Rich Maloney of Santa Rosa looks through the selection of medical marijuana available at the Peace through Medicine Healing Center in Sebastopol on Monday, June 14, 2010.

‚ÄčThe Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday night rejected, by a 3-2 vote, imposing a business tax on sales of marijuana if it is legalized by California voters in November, reports Bob Norberg at The Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

“Do we want to have storefront sales?” asked Councilman Guy Wilson, who got all bent out of shape just thinking about the measure. “Do we want Sebastopol to be the place where people come for their recreational marijuana?”
The proposal was to put a tax, not to exceed five percent, on revenues of all “marijuana-related” businesses, should California voters approve the Control & Tax Cannabis 2010 initiative, which would legalize marijuana for anyone 21 and older.

“My heart tells me we should wait until after the ballot in November,” said Councilwoman Linda Kelley.
“We just adopted a budget that has been the most painful budget I’ve seen in 12 years on the council, and we have the opportunity to potentially enhance our revenue stream,” pointed out Councilman Larry Robinson, who proposed the pot tax.
Robinson said he was not advocating for marijuana legalization, but felt that Californians would eventually legalize it.
“This is about whether the City of Sebastopol wants to be in the position to tax it if the state decided it is legal,” Robinson said. “If this council doesn’t want it, the next one will.”
The proposed tax would have taxed both medical and recreational marijuana-related businesses, including growers, distributors and dispensaries. It is modeled after a similar tax that Oakland proposed on marijuana in May.
As a business tax generating revenue for the city’s general fund, the proposal would have only required a simple majority to pass.
Three members of the council, however, decided to wait until the outcome of November’s legalization initiative is known before spending $10,000 to put the issue before Sebastopol’s voters.
Robinson and Councilwoman Kathleen Shaffer voted for the tax, while Robinson, Kelley and Mayor Sarah Gurney voted against it.
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