Could Cannabis End Up Back on the California Ballot?

Cannabis could end up back on the California ballot if some marijuana advocates have their way. An increasingly vocal faction argues that in the five years since voters approved legalization of adult recreational use, access to legal supply for consumers has been limited, thanks to unchecked taxes and fractious local governments. A booming black market has overshadowed legal proprietors, who are struggling to make ends meet – all of which was not the voters’ vision when they passed Prop. 64, the advocates argue. Los Angeles cannabis business lawyer

The California Cannabis Reform Project and Weed for Warriors organizations are working together to hammer out a ballot initiative that would, among other things, deprive local governments of the power to approve or deny licenses for cannabis business operators. They allege local governments have failed to wield that power effectively, in turn causing more harm than good, giving illegal operators a leg-up while making it harder for many law-abiding consumers in massive swaths of the state to obtain safe, legal cannabis.

As noted by analysis in the New York Times, roughly 8 in 10 of the state’s local governments have outlawed the sale of marijuana within their borders, effectively creating marijuana retail deserts. Local governments’ loss of control is effectively evidenced by the huge – and growing – illicit marijuana market.

Whether the ballot initiative has any hope of passing is questionable. As a Los Angeles attorney practicing cannabis law, I think it’s a fair assumption that local governments aren’t likely to cede any of the control they currently hold. A big part of the battle to pass Proposition 64 was gaining local government buy-in. Assurance of local control, while controversial, made it more digestible and was one of the only reasons some cities didn’t fight it harder.

However, five years in, it’s become clear that reform is necessary if we want to wrest control from the black market. Addressing issues of taxes and local control is going to be critical.

Organizations that represent cities so far haven’t commented on the effort, saying they don’t offer opinions on proposed ballot measures that have not officially qualified. Still, blanket statements were issued to the effect that local control of cannabis issues is something they still staunchly support.

Another element to the proposed ballot measure would be to restructure California cannabis taxes. The proposal would eliminate the cultivation tax, which is $9.65 per ounce of dry cannabis flower, $2.87 per ounce of dry cannabis leaves and $1.35 per ounce of dry weight for fresh cannabis plants. Further, it would reduce the existing excise tax, currently 15 percent of the average market price, to 5 percent. Further, it would bar local government entities from imposing any cannabis taxes. To compensate municipalities, it would grant local governments 1/5 of the total revenue of state excise taxes.

The effort of the cannabis activists is still in the early stages. Just getting the question in front of voters is estimated to cost $6 million on the low-side. The current planning phase involves discussions with lawmakers, lawyers and industry insiders and weighing whether such a measure would be best suited for presentation next year or in 2024.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, ancillary companies, patients, doctors and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:

Should California reform its marijuana laws? Why advocates want cannabis back on the ballot, April 20, 2021, By Andrew Sheeler, Sacramento Bee

More Blog Entries:

California Cannabis Companies Should Expect More Audits, Taxes, March 30, 2021, Los Angeles Cannabis Lawyer Blog

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