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L.A. city ballot proposals for March 2011 include medical marijuana tax

November 6, 2010

Medical Marijuana Dispensary - Chino Ca - San ...
Image by Dj Crazy Gabe via Flickr
By Rick Orlov Staff Writer

Posted: 11/03/2010 06:57:49 PM PDT

Updated: 11/03/2010 08:18:49 PM PDT


Despite concerns they could be taxing something illegal, the Los Angeles City Council on Wednesday ordered attorneys to draft a city charter amendment to tax medical marijuana.

The council’s 9-3 vote came on the last day to order the drafting of measures for the March 2011 ballot.

Other proposals still being considered for the ballot by the council include police and fire pension reforms and changes to how the Department of Water and Power is governed.

Also Wednesday, Councilman Jose Huizar withdrew a proposal to revamp city elections to rank candidates in order of preference, creating an “instant runoff” type system that avoids the need for separate primary and general elections.

 Noting other cities have approved marijuana taxes, Councilwoman Janice Hahn said Los Angeles should try to gain revenue from marijuana medical clinics operating in the city.

Tuesday night, voters in several California cities approved marijuana taxes, but some were contingent on the passage of Proposition 19, which would have legalized marijuana. The measure was defeated at the polls on Tuesday. In any case, the federal government continues to maintain that marijuana possession – medical or otherwise – remains illegal under federal law no matter what California voters say.

“It would be illegal to tax the sales of marijuana,” Hahn said. “But we can place a tax of $50 per $1,000 of the amount the clinics are reimbursed.

“The Medical

Marijuana Task Force never objected to being taxed or to the city receiving some revenue. I feel this is a reasonable and fair way for the city to recover some money.”Hahn said there are estimates the city would make $3 million to $5 million a year on a clinic tax, although she believes it would be more.

However, Deputy City Attorney Pete Echeverria, chief of the civil branch, said the city is not allowed to tax an illegal activity.

“We should never tax this because it will imply legalization,” Echeverria said, adding that his office has looked at the measures in other cities and does not believe they can withstand a court challenge.

“It is our recommendation that we not go forward with this,” Echeverria said.

However, Hahn said she disagreed with the opinion and asked that more research be done while the ballot language is developed.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl asked for a report on how many clinics are operating and the potential revenue.

While at one point the city had an estimated 800 to 1,000 clinics operating, that number has been reduced in the past year with new restrictions passed by the City Council. The city is still working to determine how many clinics are allowed to stay open, with one report estimating that only 40 meet the current requirements.

The council has until Nov. 17 to decide which measures to place on the ballot.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Peter Wolfe permalink
    November 14, 2010 3:49 am

    If these are the same people who voted in te original medical marijuana bill in jCalifornia, then they never cared for the patients from the get go anyways. Botomline is that California needs to curtail government worker pay for employees who aren’t either productive or are living high on the hog. Truth betold that California needs to address serious matters in fiscal sustainability rather tha live in a dream world where you can tax poor medical patients for things you couldn’tmanage yoruself. Pathetic if you ask me in this case some people might not have enough money barely to pay for their medical marijuana let alone some tax hugnry Robin Hood breaking them down. I hope this doesn’t have to happen in my state of Alabama if it passes cause its not decent, reasonable, considerate, humane, compassionant and is not the original intent of the medical marijuana act. Also taxing something that is still illegal might be unstate constitional as well and will probably be overthrowned anyways. Crazy man that you guys have to take from cancer patients and others just to get your check book inline cause of standing against your contituancy and telling them that the money game is up and time to take back what is the tax payers not the ilresponsible governments.

  2. December 2, 2010 10:47 pm

    i hope i won’t have to pay more than $60 for an 8th.


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