Los Angeles Wants to Tax Medical Marijuana Sales to Solve Homelessness

Claire Bernish
March 29, 2016

(ANTIMEDIA) Los Angeles, CA — Los Angeles’ government is considering applying a portion of the revenue generated from the medical marijuana industry toward alleviating the city’s homeless crisis.

City officials, according to High Times, have been debating employing cannabis revenue to fund construction of more affordable housing units. After approving a massive $2 billion budget slated to fund housing for those without it, local government realized it hadn’t yet figured out how to finance such an ambitious plan.

“Even as our economy improves, we do not anticipate to have an additional $1.78 billion over the next 10 years to dedicate for this purpose,” Chief Administrative Officer Miguel Santana told city council members recently.

Because funding the program remains up in the air, council members are considering nine other options besides the medical cannabis industry, including billboard and parcel taxes. No other option, however, offers as rich a source of revenue as cannabis — but therein lies the catch.

Confirming suspicions from those who feel the cannabis industry shouldn’t have to operate within the bounds and regulatory strictures of the State, in order for Los Angeles to apply medical marijuana revenue to its housing initiative, the city wants to impose a tax.

“The City would join other cities in California passing up to a 15 percent excise tax on medical marijuana sales and cultivation,” states an inter-departmental memo from Santana and Sharon Tso, Chief Legislative Analyst, sent to the Homelessness and Poverty Committee.

Noting several cities that successfully implemented various forms of taxation on sales and cultivation of medical marijuana, the memo explained:

“Such a tax could be charged for medical marijuana, currently legalized in the City; or, if recreational marijuana is approved at the State level, taxing either or both would be an option.”

Sanatana and Tso also note the success of similar taxes on tobacco and gasoline, adding, “Marijuana is a new product in the marketplace and could be a significant source of new revenue.”

Despite the benefits to the housing program such a tax would represent, it will likely — and understandably — be met by stiff opposition from cannabis and anti-tax activists and organizations. Pro-medical cannabis advocates, as High Times pointed out, would characterize the added cost to patients choosing nature over Big Pharma as a hardship many can ill afford — one that could potentially drive them back to the whims of the black market to obtain this medicine.

Once details of the city’s proposal are hammered out, which must be done by July, the measure will appear on either the November ballot or the Primary Nominating Election ballot next March.

Los Angeles’ homeless population, more accurately termed ‘houseless,’ is estimated to include over a quarter of a million men, women, and children; the city tops the nation in the number of people deemed “chronically” homeless. Linking an undesirable tax to an issue of imperative importance creates a quandary for many — and may create resentment against the city for failure to employ other means of solving the crisis.

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