marijuana plant
A marijuana plant. Times of San Diego photo

 A proposal to impose a tax on medical and recreational cannabis businesses operating in San Diego County’s unincorporated areas to raise money for health care, fire safety, parks and other government services appeared to be headed for victory Wednesday.

Measure A maintained a nearly 15-point margin of support as vote counting from Tuesday’s election continued, with 306,383 yes votes and 227,517 no votes. The county Registrar of Voters estimates there are still 500,000 ballots to be counted.

If passed, the measure will impose tax rates of 6% for retail outlets, 3% for distribution, 2% for testing, 3% — or $10, which can be adjusted for inflation — per canopy square foot for cultivation, and 4% for other businesses.

The county tax would not apply in cities that already impose a tax on marijuana businesses.

According to county officials, it would generate between $3 million and $5.5 million in the general fund to pay for services and infrastructure.

Measure A had support from county Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas — all Democrats. The San Diego County Democratic Party also supported it.

During a June 15 presentation on the ballot issue, Fletcher said the county is “at another step in our progress toward establishing the safe, regulated and legal cannabis market in the unincorporated areas and I think this is a worthy endeavor.”

Former county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, former La Mesa Councilman Barry Jantz, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and the Republican Party of San Diego opposed the measure.

Measure A is problematic because “the unincorporated part of the county gets taxed, but there’s no guarantee that the money is used for the general obligations created in the unincorporated part of the county, and that’s unfair,” Haney Hong, taxpayers association president and CEO, told NBC7.

Since California voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the county Board of Supervisors has moved from various bans toward a proposed cannabis “equity policy.” Fletcher and Vargas say the proposal will help eliminate the black market, and address how anti-drug policies impact low- income and minority communities. When it goes before the board next summer, the cannabis equity proposal will be in the form of an ordinance.

Currently, five marijuana operations are allowed to operate in San Diego County — three in Ramona and one each in unincorporated areas bordering El Cajon and Escondido.

–City News Service


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Ellen Bullock