The symbolic “chill torch” may get passed from San Francisco to Oakland, at least in the minds of NPR listeners nationwide. It turns out that Oakland is the first city in the nation to consider directly taxing medical marijuana sales.
NPR’s Morning Edition reported today about medical marijuana and the natural evolution to legalized pot altogether. The story focused on Oakland, where owners of marijuana dispensaries floated the tax increase idea to receptive city officials. “We’re trying to find revenue everywhere we can,” explained City Council Rep Rebecca Kaplan.
Dispensary owner Richard Lee said that he already pays $300k in sales taxes and $500k in payroll-income taxes annually. He believes that all four city dispensaries probably pay $1 million annually in sales taxes, and they are willing to contribute even more to city coffers.
Now it’s up to voters like you. Oakland has distributed a July mail-in ballot including Measure F: Shall City of Oakland’s business tax, which currently imposes a tax rate of $1.20 per $1,000 on “cannabis business” gross receipts, be amended to establish a new tax rate of $18 per $1,000 of gross receipts?
All signs point to voters approving this pot tax, which will likely add another $1 million to Oakland’s budget. Years ago this source could have been seen as far-out, but not in Oakland these days. Even the state is considering measures to legalize and tax pot, and a recent poll shows 56% of Californians support full legalization already.
In the meantime, it feels good that Oakland is the torch-bearer.