Local Government making Money on Pot
Rancho Cordova: right idea; wrong target 081810
City puts measure on ballot to tax local cannabis but targets Ma and Pa.
Cannabis is as free right now as it is possible to be in The United States of America. It is outlaw, not quite criminal, but in the gray area the free are currently relegated to. After November it will likely be “legal” which is to say corporatized, regulated, taxed to death. Patriots want to see Prop 19 pass because it is a step toward what passes for personal choice in this country, but old timers in the world of cannabis don’t support legalization, corporatization, and regulation.
Legalization this fall is likely and some local governments are moving to control the production and distribution.
Rancho Cordova has placed a measure on the ballot to tax cannabis producers in the city limits. However, instead of focusing on truly commercial growers and outlets, they’re taxing medical users who grow small amounts in their back yard.
The measure would levy the taxes on medical marijuana growers, and would automatically tax all cannabis if Prop 19 passes in November, as expected.
The residential grow tax looks like this:
"Shall an ordinance be adopted requiring individuals cultivating cannabis
(marijuana) for personal use to pay a tax to fund general municipal
services, including public safety and code enforcement, in an amount not
to exceed the following: 1) for indoor cultivation, from $600 to $900 per
year for each square foot of area cultivated; and 2) for outdoor cultivation,
from $600 to $900 per year for each 12.5 square feet of area cultivated?"
There is another measure which would tax businesses and contains this language:
"Shall an ordinance be adopted requiring cannabis (marijuana) businesses
to pay a tax to fund general municipal services, including police and code
enforcement, ranging from $120 to $150 per $1,000 of gross receipts, or
$100 per square foot of space for non-profit organizations. The tax would
only be effective if Proposition 19, or if any other law allowing cannabis
businesses is adopted, and it would only be imposed if the City allows
While the personal use laws are prohibitive, the business taxes are more reasonable, except that they tax a tax. While the fee is not specifically a tax, if it is levied on gross receipts, the sellers would be paying a fee on sales tax. It seems the city might be favoring commercial production over Ma and Pa grows.
The Personal Grow tax will do two things: 1. It will encourage cannabis users to buy from outside Rancho Cordova rather than growing it themselves; or, 2. It will encourage home-growers to start selling to pay for the tax.
The law as currently interpreted provides that qualified medical users can have as much, or grow as much, cannabis as they need. Rancho Cordova imposes a significant constraint on that ability. Taxing the home grower more for larger grows is most likely a violation of the patient’s right to use.
Indeed, the Prospect can’t congratulate Rancho Cordova much on the texture of these ordinances. The ordinances contains a laundry list of all the things that could go wrong with medical marijuana grows, but doesn’t take a balanced view of the benefits. The ordinances are intended to discourage cannabis use at all, and it is fairly clear in the language that the ordinances are response to increased cannabis production.
From the ordinance:
“As of the effective date of this Ordinance, State law provides that qualified patients and primary caregivers may cultivate marijuana upon receiving a doctor’s recommendation in accordance with Health & Safety Code 11362.5 et seq.”
The language of the ordinance that includes the idea of “morals” is telling:
“It is not the intent of this Chapter to weaken State or Federal law. Rather, by adopting this Ordinance regulating the cultivation of marijuana, the City of Rancho Cordova intends to strengthen the City’s ability to protect the quality of our housing stock, to maintain the strength of our neighborhoods, and to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the residents and businesses in the City.”
Morality should be left to religion, since it has long ago fled business and government. The moral obligations the legislators of Rancho Cordova should consider are the moral commitment they should have but did not demonstrate to the liberty of their residents, such as freedom from excessive and burdensome taxes.
While the Rancho Cordova’s personal laws are not in the spirit of individual choice, and while the taxes proposed are prohibitive in nature, the city at least shows the understanding that the future is here.
The People of Rancho Cordova have other cannabis distribution centers near. In Sierra and Plumas counties, that isn’t necessarily so. Maintaining affordable access remains important to the spirit of the law.
The County of Sierra should take some proactive approach to cannabis production. This would include locations zoned for commercial production, and ordinances protecting the rights of small gardeners.
Increasingly, people are growing in high-tech grows which don’t require special wiring. Since special wiring is not required, there is no reason these grows should require permits. People wishing to sell commercially would simply have to follow ordinances existing for all brick and mortar stores, such as parking and hours of operation.
Wherever possible, people should be allowed to grow what cannabis they need, just as they do tomatoes (and with about the same success, most likely). Sierra County, at least, could promote a stable and free cannabis market.
There are those in Rancho Cordova who understand that cannabis means commerce. Statewide Insurance Services in RC will insure your legal cannabis crop, as will an increasing number of insurers in California and elsewhere.
The present will catch the future and Prop 19 will likely pass. Only Sierra County will be left to wrestle with cannabis growing, in monkey see-monkey do fashion, after the other counties.
We were told, but cannot verify, that this is Sierra County pot.