Moreno Valley voters will be asked to tax commercial marijuana sales and production in Riverside County’s second-largest city when they go to the polls in November to elect a new California governor.
The Moreno Valley City Council recently voted to place such a tax measure on the ballot.
The measure would create a general-purpose tax that would generate money for the city’s general fund, and the dollars could be spent on a variety of purposes.
Under current law, a simple majority vote in favor is required to pass the measure. However, city officials say they are watching closely an initiative that could raise the threshold for passage of general-purpose taxes to a two-thirds supermajority.
Moreno Valley’s measure would authorize a tax of up to 8 percent on total sales from marijuana transactions, and a maximum of $15 per square foot of growing space for cannabis cultivation operators.
However, Chief Financial Officer Marshall Eyerman recommended that, if the tax is authorized, it be set well below the maximum — at 5 percent on sales and $7 per square feet for cultivators — to help new marijuana businesses get established.
City officials have said they intend to keep Moreno Valley’s rate below that of other nearby cities, such as Perris and San Jacinto.
At the recommended rate, the tax would generate up to $2.2 million in revenue annually for the city, Eyerman said.
The council voted 4-1 to put the measure on the Nov. 6 ballot. City Councilman Jeffrey Giba voted no.
Currently, there are no legally operating marijuana businesses in the city of more than 200,000. But city officials are evaluating applications to open businesses after setting a limit of 27 permits for all types of commercial operations, including eight for dispensaries.
Councilwoman Victoria Baca said the marijuana assessment would be similar to Moreno Valley’s hotel tax in terms of its impact on residents.
“Most of us don’t pay the hotel tax because we sleep in our own beds,” Baca said.
Similarly, officials said, only those residents who purchased marijuana at a local shop would pay the marijuana tax.
Baca said the tax would bring in much-needed revenue for the city.
A city report states that the city likely would use the money to boost police patrols and firefighting, support after-school programs for youth, and repair potholes, among other priorities.
MARIJUANA TAX ON BALLOT
- When: Nov. 6
- Description: A yes vote would authorize Moreno Valley to tax marijuana businesses at up to 8 percent on gross sales, and cannabis growing operations at up to $15 per square foot.
- Details: The city estimates the tax would generate up to $2.2 million a year. That is based on a suggested initial tax rate of 5 percent of gross sales for most businesses and 1 percent for testing facilities, and $7 per square foot for cultivation.