Fresno city voters appear to have approved a marijuana tax measure that officials estimate could bring in $10 million annually for police, roads and other community services.
With 100 percent of precincts reporting, nearly 70 percent of voters approved Measure A, 48,730 to 21,183. The measure, which aims to tax potential commercial cannabis business operations, needs a two-thirds majority vote to pass. The vote totals could change in the days ahead as vote-by-mail and provisional ballots are counted.
“Whether you agree with cannabis or you think it’s moral to use it or not, it’s here. It is now going to be part of our lives forever,” said Fresno City Councilman Clint Olivier. “Right now we have illicit cannabis businesses in city limits that are not paying taxes. This is a way to license these businesses and tax them and mitigate the effect of cannabis on our city.”
California voted to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016, allowing consumption for people 21 and older and up to six plants inside a private residence, but the state lets cities decide if and how cannabis businesses can operate in its jurisdiction.
Similar measures were gaining traction in other Valley cities Tuesday. More than 71 percent of voters approved a Hanford marijuana business tax and 67 percent of voters approved a marijuana business tax in Lindsay. Each of those measures require a majority vote for passage.
While Fresno City Council has voted against allowing recreational dispensaries in the city, it voted to approve medicinal cannabis storefronts last year. In September, the council released proposed regulations that would allow marijuana related business geared toward cultivation, distribution, manufacturing and testing. A final vote on that is expected later this year.
Critics of Measure A include Eli Loera, a pastor at Family Christian Assembly of God, who said the proposed tax is a move in the wrong direction and will disproportionately impact Fresno’s less affluent neighborhoods that see more drug crimes.
“You can buy a dime bag of marijuana on Belmont (Avenue) right now for $3. How is this going to fix that?” Loera said Tuesday night. “This is only going to make it worse. The way it’s written, it looks like it’s all medicinal, but it’s a big smoke screen... Sadly, nothing’s going to be done about this until they start seeing it north of Shaw and Herndon” avenues.
Measure A would tax marijuana businesses at rates of up to $12 per canopy square foot and up to 10 percent of gross receipts for medical dispensaries and other marijuana businesses, with revenue dedicated to the city’s general fund and a community benefit fund.