Why a Duck?

“Via tax?”

Matthew Leslie

The second item on the Agenda of the Fullerton City Council on June 21 is a ballot measure to regulate the cultivation and sale of medical marijuana in town. The City of Fullerton has banned dispensaries from operating in the city since 2011. Cities have the legal ability to either ban or to allow dispensaries and limited cultivation, as well as to  establish rules under which each activity would be allowed.

The agenda item is eighty-six pages long, and recommends restrictions on where dispensaries would be allowed to open, limits their number to nine, sets operational standards, and describes permitting processes.

Most striking is the recommendation that the city tax sales of medical marijuana at a rate of 15%, with an option to increase the tax to 20% in the future. This arbitrarily imposed tax is both the reason for the proposal to allow the dispensaries and the need for it to go to the voters. Such a tax cannot be imposed without approval of the voters, and its passage would conveniently help to bail the city out of its financial deficit. The staff report makes clear that application fees would be charged to finance additional costs associated with allowing the dispensaries. The proposed tax is completely gratuitous.

The tax is not only arbitrary, and unnecessary, but downright cruel. Medical marijuana was legalized by California’s voters because it relieves the symptoms of patients suffering from, among other things, cancer. To balance the city’s books on the backs of those suffering from chronic pain or (sometimes terminally ill) cancer patients is unconscionable. Why not a tax on oil extraction instead? How about a 15% tax on bars? If these suggestions sound outrageous, so should an arbitrarily imposed tax on medical marijuana.

It will be particularly interesting to watch Mayor Pro Tem Jan Flory’s vote on this issue. In 2012 she surpassed incumbent Travis Kiger by just 29 votes to claim a seat on the council. During the election one of the tactics used against Mr. Kiger by the police union, who supported Ms. Flory, was a mobile billboard, along with campaign mailers, that suggested Mr. Kiger was in favor of legalizing medical marijuana dispensaries in Fullerton.