Tuesday vote threatens to increase taxes by 5 percent, an unfair increase for city patients
LOS ANGELES -- A vote taking place in Los Angeles Tuesday threatens to increase the cost of an already expensive treatment for many medical marijuana patients in the city. Measure M, which is one of 10 ballot measures facing the voters of Los Angeles Tuesday, would increase taxes on medical marijuana by 5 percent, above and beyond the nearly 10 percent patients already pay in sales tax. Patient advocates have come out in opposition to the measure, asking the city to find other sources of revenue and to remove the tax burden from sick patients.
"We understand that the city is under a lot of economic stress," said Don Duncan, the California Director at Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana group, which is strongly opposing Measure M. "But, it doesn't make sense to charge our most vulnerable people more money for their treatment," continued Duncan. "Many patients have already been excluded due to the high price of medical marijuana, let's not exclude even more."
Patient advocates dispute the two main arguments being used by Measure M proponents for the need to impose the tax. One argument is that the city needs money to implement regulations in order to license distribution centers. However, patient advocates argue that cost-recovery provisions already exist in the ordinance. Most of the costs are expected to already be paid by the applicants and any additional costs, advocates say, can be recouped with license fees which do not have to be linked to the amount of medical marijuana sold.
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Another argument made by Measure M proponents is that medical marijuana distributors don't currently pay business license fees and that they should just pay their fair share. What is not being mentioned by Measure M proponents is that typical city business license fees range from one-tenth of one percent to half of one percent, at least ten times less than the five percent being voted on Tuesday. "Medical marijuana providers are willing to pay their fair share, but it must be fair and it must come with the responsibility of protecting, not attacking the city's collectives," said Duncan. The city has come under fire, publicly and legally, for imposing an ordinance that has ignored due process rights. After recently losing in Superior Court, the city is attempting to fix their regulations, but according to patient advocates, insufficiently so.
Although medical marijuana patients are in the "opposition camp" with Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck and District Attorney Steve Cooley, it is for entirely different reasons. Staunch medical marijuana opponent Steve Cooley has raided numerous city collectives and has campaigned on the notion that "sales" are illegal under state law, but patient advocates argue that sales are indeed legal and practiced all over the state and, simply, that patients should not be singled out to bear the brunt of the city's tax burden. Patient advocates have also long held the opinion that since marijuana is a quasi-prescribed medication which you cannot get over-the-counter, it should not be taxed at all.
Measure M: http://clkrep.lacity.org/onlinedocs/2011/11-1100-s10_misc_11-19-10.pdf