All voters in San Diego County will be asked to weigh in on Measure A on their Nov. 8 ballots. It would tax cannabis businesses in unincorporated areas specified amounts, generating an estimated $2.9 million to $5.6 million a year. Here two essays argue either side of a measure that the San Diego County Board of Supervisors placed on the ballot.
Hong is president & CEO of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and lives in La Mesa. Vorndran is a policy analyst with the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and lives in Oceanside.
Studies and real-world application show that cannabis can be used to treat some ailments. But it definitely can’t fix income inequality when politicians use it to tax poor communities.
A majority of the San Diego County Board of Supervisors have put a marijuana tax on your November ballot. It places a tax on cannabis businesses only in San Diego County’s unincorporated areas, including much of our region’s backcountry, yet the money collected would go into the county’s region-wide general fund for use by other areas.
Simply put, Measure A taxes parts of our region but ships that money elsewhere. The proposed weed tax will bring benefits to more well-funded cities in the incorporated areas of the county at the expense of those in the unincorporated areas, which are historically less populous and poorer than their incorporated counterparts.
The backers of this measure believe a tax on just the backcountry is going to make it easier for poorer, underserved communities to start cannabis businesses. Yet in doing so, they are essentially saying that a tax only on generally lower income areas will promote social equity, not hurt it.
This logic is making our brains foggy, and we promise: There’s not a joint anywhere nearby.
You don’t take from the poor to help areas that are relatively richer. And you certainly don’t do that if you want to reduce inequities no matter where they are.
There is no reason a potential dispensary in Ramona should be forced to pay for county functions in a city like Oceanside — which, like many other incorporated cities throughout the county, has already imposed its own taxes on cannabis businesses.
One of the ironies here is that when an incorporated city enacts a cannabis tax, it keeps the revenue local and doesn’t share those dollars with communities outside its city limits. These cities rightfully keep that money for themselves.
So why are poorer backcountry communities being asked to chip in when the monies aren’t guaranteed to stay with them?
The county needs to do the right thing and figure out a new plan that instead brings a benefit to those who pay for it — a plan that doesn’t give money to areas that may already be flush with financial resources.
While there are some complexities in writing a tax proposal on only the unincorporated areas and guaranteeing that revenue stays where generated, it’s really not that hard. Just because creating restrictions raises the bar to two-thirds for voter approval, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, especially if it means more equity.
Wouldn’t it be more equitable for the county to impose a tax that uses the tax dollars paid by cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas for projects in those same areas? Or for the county to equally tax all cannabis businesses throughout the entire region? There must be a solution that doesn’t take money from some of the poorest communities among us.
Although cannabis may sound like an appealing way to forget about bad ideas like this one, the only way to successfully combat this unfair policy is to vote “no” on Measure A.