Huntington Beach

Voters to decide on pot tax

VOTERS in Huntington Beach will decide whether to levy a tax on the sale of cannabis products (Shutterstock).

By Zia Zografos/Orange County Tribune 

Huntington Beach voters will be presented with the opportunity to vote on a cannabis business tax on the June statewide primary ballot.

Since Proposition 64 legalized marijuana use for adults 21 and over, Councilmember Dan Kalmick stated that community members have been pushing for legalization, taxation, and regulation on cannabis. Kalmick also stated that the purpose of this resolution is to gauge the community’s feelings on potential retail sale of cannabis within the city. Currently, Huntington Beach prohibits medical and recreational marijuana activities.

The council voted 5-2, with Councilmembers Erik Peterson and Mike Posey voting no on the item.

“It gives the council a metric for what our residents want,” said Kalmick. “We’re giving voters the option to allow us at a future date to set a tax rate…But I think most of all, it gives us real polling information. It tells our voters to vote if you want to tax, and implicitly that is if they want retail cannabis in our city.”

In order for the special tax to pass, two-thirds of Huntington Beach’s residents must vote in favor. The special tax revenue collected must be deposited into a separate fund restricted for specific purposes, and the tax will not exceed 6 percent for retailers and 1 percent for non-retailers.

According to a presentation given by Grace Yoon-Taylor, the city’s senior administrative analyst, the tax would be put towards public safety and behavioral health services and prevention education to address the ongoing homelessness crisis. The estimated costs for these various programs are $317,000- $450,000.

Cannabis sales in the city are expected to generate approximately $300,000- $600,000 annually, according to Yoon-Taylor.

However both Peterson and Posey felt that an entire, comprehensive ordinance besides just the tax alone should be presented to the people.

“Right now, you’re saying ‘it’s a tax, it’s a tax’, it’s a tax on what? What are the requirements to have this? How much of it are we going to have in our city? If those factors are in there, people might change their mind,” said Peterson.

Some members of the council stated that putting the item on the ballot would deter the cannabis industry from spearheading their own ballot initiative which would hinder the council from setting their own precedence.

Michael Moussalli, who led a cannabis study session a few weeks prior and operates two manufacturing and distribution facilities in Costa Mesa, voiced his full support for the item.

“It cleans up the illicit market,” said Moussalli. “Unfortunately, there’s quite a few illegal dispensaries operating in Huntington Beach as there were in Costa Mesa a few years ago. We’ve seen that market get cleaned up in Costa Mesa quite a bit, there’s only a couple left now.”

If the ballot passes, the council will further deliberate on regulations and requirements for a retail cannabis ordinance.



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