Election ’22: Revised county cannabis tax measure must pass | New
In November, voters in Sacramento County will decide whether the county should tax cannabis and hemp businesses if they are allowed to operate in unincorporated communities.
Sacramento County supervisors voted July 26 3-2 to advance the tax measure to the November ballot. This measure alone does not allow cannabis businesses to operate in unincorporated communities. This legalization requires separate action by the Supervisory Board.
Supervisors considered an amended version of the proposed cannabis tax measure that did not pass at their July 12 board meeting. Supervisor Phil Serna, who is a leading proponent of the commercial cannabis tax, revised the measure to improve his chances of passing the November ballot.
This time, the new tax measure will devote its tax revenues to a special fund that will finance only homeless assistance programs. Serna considers homelessness the “number one issue at the forefront of every day” in the county.
“Will this cure homelessness? Absolutely not. I will be the first to admit it,” he told his colleagues. “The way I envision it is to add a tool to our toolkit to do what is expected of us.”
Such a measure for a special tax fund requires at least three supervisor votes to qualify for a vote in November. The previous tax measure that failed on July 12 would have instead sent cannabis tax revenues to the county’s general fund. This measure required four votes to pass.
Supervisors Sue Frost and Don Nottoli have always opposed putting the cannabis tax measure on the ballot.
Frost insisted that it is unfair to have a ballot where voters in cities vote on a measure that only affects unincorporated communities. As District 4 Supervisor, she represents unincorporated locations such as Rancho Murieta, Herald, and Antelope. Frost said a common theme at his constituents’ hearings was that ballot voting was unfair.
“I don’t think it’s fair for unincorporated residents – for the entire county to vote on an issue that could potentially have a dramatic impact on our community, and we already have a drug problem,” he said. she declared.
Frost also expressed uncertainty about plans to use cannabis tax revenue to fund homeless services.
“At the end of the day, I’m not sure bringing recreational cannabis into the unincorporated county is worth it,” she said. “I don’t know how many lives this will impact, and how it will affect an already extremely exacerbated problem of homelessness.”
Nottoli, in his annual state of the county address that he delivered in Elk Grove on July 29, reiterated his opposition to the cannabis tax measure. He pointed out that this was because voters in cities had the opportunity to vote on the measure.
“So you people of Elk Grove in town have a chance to vote on this. The same in the city of Sacramento, they have the ability to vote on it, and yet the regulatory regime with taxation, as well as activities, will only be in the unincorporated area,” the supervisor said. “That’s one of the reasons I didn’t support him.”
Nottoli represents South County communities such as Elk Grove, Wilton and Galt in District 5.
Commercial retail and cultivation of cannabis is illegal within the city limits of Elk Grove. However, the city borders several unincorporated communities such as Wilton, Franklin, Vineyard, and Vintage Park.
In Sacramento County, cannabis businesses are only allowed to operate in the cities of Sacramento and Isleton.
More than 300 licensed cannabis businesses operate in the city of Sacramento, according to a report HdL Companies prepared for county supervisors. They reported that the city collected over $20 million in cannabis taxes in the 2020-21 fiscal year. These companies pay a tax rate of 4% to the city.
HdL staff estimated that the county could generate between $5 million and $8 million annually from licensed cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas.
At the July 12 County Supervisors meeting, Supervisor Rich Desmond noted that the City of Sacramento now collects the bulk of cannabis tax revenue in the county. He added that cannabis products are still widely sold in unincorporated areas.
“We’re not just leaving money on the table, but we’re also letting another municipality make all the decisions about how the tax money is spent on something that’s going on with the unincorporated county, and I have a big problem with that. “, Desmond said.
After the initial cannabis tax measure failed to progress on July 12, Serna came back with a revised measure to exclusively fund homeless services.
“I think this measure, the way it is designed, could bode well for this county – for some of the most vulnerable people who are now camping by rivers or sleeping under overpasses… feeling like their only opportunity is to live outdoors and are very susceptible to the adverse effects on their mental health and often, unfortunately, self-medicate,” he said at the July 26 board meeting. .
A few members of medical cannabis and land conservation organizations told supervisors they support the new measure.
Dianna Poggetto, executive director of the American River Parkway Foundation, spoke about homelessness on the boardwalk.
“As we all know, the boardwalk is ground zero for homelessness, so any additional resources that can be brought to the county to address homelessness, particularly at the boardwalk, would be greatly appreciated,” he said. she declared.
Richard Miller, the Sacramento president of Americans for Safe Access, which advocates legal access to cannabis for medical purposes, told supervisors about his experience of homelessness.
“I know how difficult it is to get out of this situation,” he said. “Most people can’t, and after being on the streets for a week you develop mental issues, and so I think it’s very important that we move on and take that into account. consideration.”
Before voting in favor of the new tax measure, Supervisor Patrick Kennedy rejected the idea that cannabis tax revenues should only fund homeless services in unincorporated areas.
“We always talk about homelessness being a crisis and then treat it like another government program,” he said. “This (tax measure) shows that we are thinking outside the box in service delivery. Of course, it’s not a panacea and it won’t solve homelessness, but we can leave no stone unturned in seeking resources to address what is truly an urgent humanitarian crisis.
Staff writer Lance Armstrong contributed to this story.