Voters in Sacramento rejected a plan to tax marijuana cultivation, even though the proposal won a majority at the ballot box.
Voters in the city strongly backed the initiative to tax retail cannabis cultivation and use the revenue to pay for youth programs. The plan won 65.2 percent of the vote, but the initiative needed more than 66 percent to pass.
The vote was cast June 8, one of several important local ballot initiatives across the state. The tax proposal came in the wake of new medical marijuana regulations signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October.
Those rules make it easier for local communities to license and tax grow operations. They also give communities more leeway to ban all marijuana-related cultivation and dispensaries. Taxes such as the one proposed in Sacramento offer something of a middle ground between outright bans and the unregulated market favored by many in the cannabis industry.
The Sacramento initiative, known as Measure Y, would have levied a 5 percent business tax on indoor marijuana farms licensed by the City Council. The resulting money would have been directed to a special fund for youth-oriented programs and services.
Two-thirds support the idea
“I think if you’ve got two-thirds of the people saying this is an important issue for them, that means we need more resources for young people,” said City Council Member Jay Schenirer.
Elsewhere in California, Nevada County voters rejected a ban on all outdoor marijuana grows. Nevada County, a rural area northeast of Sacramento, is known for its marijuana culture.
Measure W, as the local initiative was called, won slightly less than 60 percent of the vote – a strong showing, but still not enough to win. Measure W would have cemented an ordinance already adopted by the county in January that bans outdoor grows in all unincorporated areas.
In neighboring Yuba County, on the other hand, voters broadly rejected a measure that would have allowed more private marijuana cultivation.
Voter opinions divided by county
The votes in Sacramento, Nevada County, and Yuba County reflect divided opinions throughout the Sierra Nevada region, with support for tight restrictions much stronger in some communities than in others. In each of these places, the debate centers mostly around healthcare needs and the ability of patients to get their medication.
Opponents of the cultivation ban in Nevada County included Forrest Hurd, the father of a 9-year-old son with severe pediatric epilepsy and intellectual disabilities. Cannabis, Hurd said during the debate, frees Silas from agonizing seizures, and Measure W would interfere with that treatment.
“We did it,” Hurd said after it became clear the Nevada County measure would fail. “And now we have a chance to draft a law to protect the environment, protect our neighbors, and protect our children.”