Los Angeles Votes on Medical Cannabis Tax

March 05, 2011 | Don Duncan
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On Tuesday, Angelenos will decide whether or not to put an additional 5% tax on medical cannabis and vote in seven City Council races. Medical cannabis patients have a lot at stake in the Primary Election. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on patients and advocates in Los Angeles to reject a “Sin Tax” on medical cannabis by voting no on Measure M, and to consider  City Council Members’stance on medcial cannabis before casting a ballot.

Tuesday’s Primary Election is a great opportunity to make a difference for patients in a city that is still struggling to implement its medical cannabis program. Less than sixteen percent of registered voters showed up for the last Primary Elections in 2009. That means medical cannabis patients and advocates can make a big difference in the election – if they turn out in larger than expected numbers.



Measure M will impose a business license tax on patients’ collectives and cooperatives of $50 per $1,000 in gross receipts (5% on top of 9.75% sales tax). This is disproportionate with existing business license taxes in Los Angeles, which range from $1.07 to $5.07 per $1,000 in revenue. Why should legal patients pay almost ten times more tax than anyone else in the city? Is that the legal patients' fair share? Public ambivalence and media bias make medical cannabis an easy revenue target, but that does not make a “sin tax” on medical cannabis fair or reasonable.

Some proponents argue that the city needs the money from Measure M to offset the cost of implementing the city’s controversial Medical Cannabis Ordinance. However, Measure M funds are not ear marked for that purpose; and the ordinance already requires the collectives and cooperatives to pay for registration, inspection, and enforcement. In reality, Measure M is simply an attempt to raise revenue during tough economic times.

ASA calls on the Los Angeles City Council, which voted to place Measure M on the ballot,  to shift the tax burden away from legal patients, and to find fair and reasonable solutions to the city’s budget shortfall. ASA and medical cannabis patients are not alone in opposing Measure M. The Los Angeles Times and the Los Angeles Daily Breeze have both urged voters to reject the measure.

Voters will also cast ballots in seven City Council races, and frustration with the protracted regulatory process in the city will be a factor for voters in several districts. City Council Member Bernard Parks (District 8 ) co-sponsored a motion, seconded by Council Member Greig Smith (District 12) to ban medical cannabis collectives and cooperatives outright in December. Medical cannabis patients and advocates in those districts should feel justified in voting for opponents in either race, although neither district is considered “in play” in Tuesday’s election. Medical cannabis voters in District 14 have organized a campaign called “No Way Jose” to unseat incumbent City Council Member Jose Huizar in the city’s closest and most controversial race.

ASA urges Angelenos to making voting on Tuesday a priority. A relatively small number of voters will decide Measure M and the City Council races, so this is a great opportunity to be influential. So find your polling place and vote no on Measure M on Tuesday.
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