Seeking new revenue streams for L.A.'s depleted coffers, the City Council voted to include Measure M on the ballot for the March 8 election. If the measure is approved by voters, medical marijuana dispensaries will pay a tax of "$50 per $1,000 of gross receipts," which amounts to an additional 5 percent tax on top of the 9.75 percent county sales tax that many collectives already pay. The measure, also known as Proposition M, calls into question the tax-exempt status of some non-profit cannabis cooperatives supposedly functioning on the barter system. For a number of years following the voter approval of Proposition 215 in 1996, the tax code for medical marijuana dispensaries remained a bit hazy. Several marijuana pharmacies formed neighborhood cooperatives, whereby green-thumb growers would cultivate buds with a high quantity of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) - the marijuana plant's active ingredient - and trade the fruits of their labor with each other, purportedly without making any money. At the same time cities and counties throughout the state sought a cut of the supposed cash proceeds. Does Measure M give the city a way to skim some more profits from a semi-legal enterprise? Or does another tax on pharmaceutical sinsemilla in the City of Angels legitimize this cash crop, and bring it one step closer to legalization in California?
Paul Koretz, Los Angeles City Councilmember, 5th District
Don Duncan, Americans for Safe Access