Proposed bill would tax marijuana 15 percent

Cannabis products have been legally sold as medicine in California for two decades. But newly proposed legislation would tax marijuana like a sin, just like spirits, beer, wine and cigarettes.

State Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) introduced Senate Bill 987 to add a 15 percent sales tax on medical marijuana products. McGuire claims the state needs the money to regulate cannabis, clean up damage caused by cultivation, and help people recover from addiction.

“This needed revenue will make our communities stronger by focusing on the impacts of cultivation and use of marijuana, including funding local law enforcement and neighborhood improvement programs, state parks, drug and alcohol treatment and environmental rehabilitation,” McGuire says.

The proposed legislation infuriated some cannabis patients who pointed out that prescription drugs are exempt from taxes. But there’s a problem with that argument. While medical marijuana requires a doctor’s recommendation in California, it’s not a prescription medicine under federal guidelines — it’s illegal under all circumstances. 

If SB 987 becomes law, the tax dollars would support various programs, including new Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, state parks and natural resources, drug and alcohol treatment centers, and the state’s general fund.

Cities and counties would be free to continue to add their own taxes to marijuana sales on top of the 15 percent state tax.

The State Board of Equalization brings in about $50 million annually from marijuana dispensary sales. The BOE has estimated the California cannabis market at $1 billion.

Image Credit: Flickr User 401(K) 2013, via (CC BY-SA 2.0)