County supervisors’ narrow decision to allow medical marijuana businesses in unincorporated areas may be tested when the question of whether to tax those businesses comes to a vote by the end of the year.
The 3-2 divide on the marijuana matter remained evident during a follow-up discussion Tuesday, with Supervisors Chuck Winn and Bob Elliott adamantly opposing any allowance of commercial marijuana operations.
“My opinion is we are going to create more problems that will cause us to expend more money than we will ever be able to take in” in taxes, Elliott said.
While Winn and Elliott were on the losing end of last month’s 3-2 vote, they are not powerless in their effort to stop the county from moving forward.
The proposed tax on the businesses could raise millions of dollars to help pay for law enforcement and educational efforts. But placing a tax on the ballot for voter approval would require a four-fifths vote of the board, meaning that Winn and Elliott together could block the tax that would fund the new ordinance.
“If you can’t generate any money,” Winn said, “there’s no use spending any time to discuss it.”
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As a possible alternative to a tax, Supervisor Kathy Miller asked county staff to look at whether developer agreements could be used to raise money instead. That’s been done in other areas of California, she said, and County Counsel Mark Myles called it a “viable” option.
Miller, who supported the move to regulate commercial marijuana in the county, made it clear Tuesday that she is “not a big proponent of cannabis use.”
“But the state has already spoken,” she said. “… Extending a ban, in my opinion, guarantees we will have no additional resources to deal with impacts that we already know are going to hit our county.”
Supervisors also debated whether residents throughout the county, including incorporated areas like Stockton, should be able to vote on the tax even though it would apply only to businesses in unincorporated areas.
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Whether more liberal Stockton is included in the vote could be key to passing the tax.
Myles told supervisors that a court would likely find that everyone in the county would participate in the vote, including Stockton, because everyone would potentially benefit from the increase in tax revenue.
In the end, supervisors asked staff to return with a tax proposal by the end of the year. If it were to pass the board, it could go before voters in June. Staff was also asked to begin the process of extending the ban — which remains in place today — until the tax goes before voters.
The proposal right now is to limit marijuana businesses to medical only, and not recreational. Only indoor grows would be allowed, potentially including greenhouses in industrial areas only. And any dispensaries would be delivery-only.