Pot Taxes and Farm Permits Seek Voter Approval 

Berkeley and Oakland would expand their taxation, while Richmond and Albany consider getting into the game.

Voters in four East Bay cities will have the chance to expand the medical cannabis industry, tax it at a greater rate, and prepare for the possible passage of Prop 19 this November, part of a trend across Northern California.

By the far the most dramatic measure appears in Berkeley, where a positive business environment has lead to a sprawling industry of three popular permitted dispensaries and countless private collectives. Rampant indoor pot farming has emerged as an unintended consequence of existing law, and Measure T would theoretically begin reigning that in by permitting six indoor medical cannabis farms in the manufacturing district. Measure T also permits residential medical cannabis collectives to cultivate up to 200 square feet of the herbal remedy. Additionally, the measure bumps the number of local dispensaries up from three to four and requires they be at least 600 feet from schools and other dispensaries.

A separate Berkeley Measure S levies a 2.5 percent sales tax, as well as a property tax on nonprofit medical cannabis businesses. The tax starts at $25 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet and $10 per square foot thereafter. Measure S also prepares Berkeley for the possible passage of Prop 19 — the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Act — with a 10 percent sales tax on non-medical cannabis.

Just to the south, the City of Oakland similarly prepares to tax and regulate pot if homegrown Prop 19 passes. A 10 percent recreational sales tax is included in Oakland's Measure V. Measure V would also raise medical cannabis business taxes from $18 per $1,000 to $50 per $1,000 of gross receipts. Dispensaries have come out against what would be the third increase in their sales taxes, saying taxes cut into services. This fall, the Oakland City Council continues to work on possibly permitting four large-scale cultivation sites without a ballot measure.

Up in Richmond, the council also sent the voters a Measure V, which would mandate "every person" engaged in a marijuana business pay a general business license tax of 5 percent of gross receipts. The tax comes after the City of Richmond banned dispensaries, sued the existing ones out of business, and then created permits for three in the city.

Finally, the City of Albany — which has no permitted dispensaries yet — would get in the game with Measure Q, which would create a business license tax for local cannabis enterprises. For-profits in Albany would pay $25 per $1,000 gross receipts, while Albany nonprofits would pay $25 per square foot of space for all businesses owned, rented, leased, or otherwise occupied.

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