Proposed Tax On Marijuana For Homeless Services Gets Nipped In The Bud
Earlier this month, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors voted to include on the November ballot a measure that would have put a 10% tax on gross receipts from marijuana business, but now officials are stepping away from it, reports the L.A. Times.
Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, author of the measure, introduced on Friday a new motion to stop the measure from appearing on the ballot. She cited a lack of support as a reason for halting it. "We certainly didn't want to raise millions of dollars for a campaign and have it fail by two or three points," said Kuehl.
One of the main issues is that enthusiasm for the proposed tax measure has been shaky at best. Providers in substance abuse programs are wary of benefiting off a tax that, basically, pulls in money from a drug. Kuehl said she was concerned that the measure wouldn't get the necessary two-thirds vote without a "united front" among those working in homeless services.
Recreational marijuana isn't even legal (yet) in the city or the state, and medical pot is also banned in unincorporated areas of the county. There is a separate measure on the November ballot that, if voted in, will legalize recreational use. Officials estimated that the proposed tax could bring in as much as $130 million a year for mental health services, emergency housing and other efforts that help stem the homeless situation. But, unless recreational use is legalized, the proposed tax measure is handcuffed in terms of how much money it can bring in. The measure is currently opposed by the California Correctional Supervisor's Organization, the California Hospitals Association and the California Police Chiefs Association.
There have also been concerns that the tax will dramatically drive up the prices on pot. The measure, combined with a state tax and other taxes, could raise prices by 34 percent, according to City News Service. Marijuana proponents say that high prices may actually strengthen a a black market for pot, which defeats the purpose of legalizing marijuana in the first place.
The proposed tax measure is part of a larger effort to address the rampant homeless situation that has overtaken L.A. Earlier this year, L.A Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed a budget in which $138 million would be allocated for services for the homeless. A city report estimated that, in order to stop homelessness, the city would have to spend nearly $2 billion over the next 10 years. The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority said that the homeless population in L.A. had grown by 11 percent since 2015.
The so-called "millionaire's tax," which, would have taken a half-percent of millionaires' personal incomes and redirect them for services for the homeless, failed to make it onto the November ballot after facing opposition from state lawmakers in Sacramento.