Mendocino County Weighs Pot Tax

Mendocino County Weighs Pot Tax
Posted by CN Staff on March 20, 2005 at 09:01:42 PT
By Glenda Anderson, The Press Democrat
Source: Press Democrat
The lucrative, as-yet-untaxed medical marijuana industry is attracting the attention of Mendocino County supervisors in search of revenue. "There are hundreds of thousands of dollars being funneled through these (medical marijuana) dispensaries," said Supervisor Jim Wattenburger.County supervisors are mulling the idea of regulating and taxing pot clubs, a suggestion made by Wattenburger last week to help close the county's estimated $3.5 million deficit.
Mendocino County, already renowned for its illegal marijuana industry, has seen pot gardens and cannabis clubs blossom in open view following the 1996 passage of Proposition 215, which legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons."It's become a major economic driving force," Wattenburger said. "It needs to be addressed like any other business."Santa Rosa and Willits also are considering regulating pot clubs, but their stated motivation is controlling associated nuisances and crime rather than generating income. Oakland began regulating cannabis clubs last year.Because they're not regulated, the number of pot clubs in Mendocino County is unknown. There were at least three in the Ukiah area until one was shut down last month after its owner sold pot to an undercover agent.Supervisor David Colfax called Wattenburger's proposal to capitalize on medical pot clubs "a beautiful dream.""If it were possible, I think it would be a great idea," he said. "I completely support the idea."Supervisor Hal Wagenet, like Colfax, said he doubts the county can tax marijuana, but "I'm interested in exploring it."Wattenburger's plan was born while he was campaigning door-to-door for his seat last year. In one north Ukiah neighborhood, he saw pot plants growing in the back yards of every third house. The ubiquity of suburban marijuana gardens has raised complaints about their skunk-like smell and crime, spurring Ukiah officials to work on an ordinance to limit backyard pot growing.Wattenburger said a woman he knows told him she made $90,000 tax free last year growing pot in her back yard."She said she takes it to the cannabis club to cash in," he said.It won't be so easy for the county to cash in on the crop.Regulating and taxing medical marijuana locally could be complicated, maybe even impossible, Wattenburger admitted. While Proposition 215 legalized medical pot in California, the federal government still considers it illegal. State and local agencies have been reluctant to get involved because they fear losing their federal funding, he said."I don't know the answers. I'm asking that we explore the issue," Wattenburger said.Only state and federal authorities have the power to tax income, but local jurisdictions can impose license and business fees.However, license fees are limited. They're supposed to reflect the actual county cost of regulating businesses. Certain fees can be tied to income generated by a business, but they generally require voter approval, said Mendocino County Counsel Peter Klein.Marijuana advocates largely support efforts to regulate and tax marijuana."I would love to see it happen to help our local economies out," said Dane Wilkins, executive director of the North Coast chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.Chris Conrad, with the Bay Area marijuana advocacy group, Safe Access Now, said he knows of a cannabis club that already pays sales tax by including its pot sales with income from its coffee shop. It does not tell the state some of its income is derived from pot, he said.If everyone in Mendocino County paid income tax on their pot crops, legal and illegal, it would generate between $1.5 and $3 million for the county annually, Wagenet estimated.Wattenburger expects his request to set up a committee to study the legalities and liabilities of regulating and taxing medical pot clubs to be on the board's agenda early next month.Note: Supervisors look to medical marijuana clubs as source of revenue to help close $3.5 million budget deficit.Source: Press Democrat, The (CA)Author: Glenda Anderson, The Press DemocratPublished: Sunday, March 20, 2005Copyright: 2005 The Press DemocratContact: letters pressdemo.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:Safe Access Now California NORML Issues on Medical Pot Seeks To Limit Medical Pot Looks at Restrictions on Pot Growing
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Comment #1 posted by JustGetnBy on March 20, 2005 at 12:39:04 PT
In Revolt
Y'all know the old saying " Follow the money"? Well check this out.... Ca counties ( A legal entity )get bold and attempt to collect taxes on an illegal substance obtained by an illegal activity, this puts them in conflict with state law. The state is already in huge conflict with the Feds on the same issues ( states rights/ Revenue sharing ) , and there best interests lie in horning in on the counties and stealing part of this new found tax treasure.          Just a thought, whaddya think?
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