LA County Puts Cannabis Business Tax Measure on November Ballot

LA County Puts Cannabis Business Tax Measure on November Ballot
Leaves of a mature marijuana plant in a display at The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo at the Cow Palace in Daly City, Calif., on April 18, 2010. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
City News Service

LOS ANGELES—Los Angeles County voters will be asked in November to consider a ballot measure that would impose business taxes on cannabis operations in unincorporated areas, once such businesses are permitted.

The county is still developing regulations for cannabis operations in unincorporated areas, with an ordinance expected to come before the Board of Supervisors next year.

In the meantime, the board voted Aug. 9 unanimously—with Supervisor Janice Hahn absent after testing positive for COVID—to place a proposed tax measure on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The measure will require a simple majority of voters to be approved.

The proposal would enact a series of initial tax rates—4 percent for gross receipts for retail operations, 3 percent for manufacturing and distribution, $4 per square foot for mixed-light cultivation, and $7 per square foot for indoor cultivation.

According to county staff, the levies would initially generate an estimated $10.36 million a year. Those rates would be in effect until July 1, 2026, after which the ordinance outlines additional increases in the rates.

Although regulations for cannabis operations in unincorporated areas are still being developed, county staff indicated that the initial plan will allow for up to 25 storefront retail cannabis businesses countywide, 25 delivery retail businesses, 10 indoor/mixed light cultivation establishments, 10 manufacturing businesses, 10 distribution facilities, and 10 testing laboratories.

The businesses are expected to be distributed equally in each of the five supervisorial districts.

Supervisor Kathryn Barger, whose district includes the rural northern reaches of the county that are hotspots of illegal marijuana operations, said in a statement the action approved Tuesday does not mean there will a proliferation of outdoor grows.

"The approach we've adopted will equitably distribute legal cannabis businesses in each supervisorial district and specifies that cannabis cultivation will only be permitted indoors—not outdoors in greenhouses," she said.

"Our board must be clear: we will not tolerate illegal cannabis operations. Growers who operate illegally undermine our efforts to create a regulated and responsible cannabis industry, and often do so at the expense of the rural communities I represent. I'm firmly committed to upholding the law and will corral all available resources to enhance enforcement and abatement efforts."

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