Editorials

10 million reasons why you should vote for Fresno’s marijuana tax, Measure A

The majority of Fresno voters approved the recreational use of marijuana when they supported Proposition 64 two years ago. Now voters have a chance to take an important next step when they consider Measure A on the November ballot. The Bee urges a yes vote as Measure A is a logical evolution of a local industry that people have already made clear they want.

Two years ago 51.4 percent of voters in Fresno approved Proposition 64, the statewide measure that allows recreational pot use. The proposition was passed in five of the seven council districts in the city.

Several pastors with churches in south and west Fresno came out against any city-sanctioned marijuana businesses. The pastors were concerned with allowing pot to be legally available because they had experienced how damaging drug use had been for some in their congregations.

But as Councilman Clint Olivier notes, the voters decided the moral argument with passage of Proposition 64.

And the pastors were not the only ones to testify to the City Council. Also turning out at hearings were local residents who told how they get relief from chronic pain by using marijuana.

Measure A would impose taxes on cultivation and sales from medical dispensaries. While the city is only considering medical marijuana businesses right now, Measure A’s provisions would also apply to recreational pot businesses if the city ever allows those to open.

The city estimates that up to $10 million a year could be raised from taxes on medical pot businesses. Supporters of Measure A, including Police Chief Jerry Dyer, note a host of ways the money would be used:

Ninety percent of revenues will go to police, fire, parks, roads and other key services. Among those to be hired are officers for a task force that would crack down on human trafficking, gangs and drug dealers.

Ten percent of the money will go into a community benefit fund, and a nine-member citizens’ commission appointed by the mayor and councilmembers will recommend how to spend the monies.

Mayor Lee Brand has said one of the main reasons to bring medical marijuana growers and dispensaries under city control is to put black market dealers out of business. Police estimate there are more than 100 such illegal operations in the city — with none paying any taxes.

For Measure A to pass, two-thirds of voters must approve it. Olivier does not think that is insurmountable, noting more than 70 percent of Merced voters did just that in June on a similar tax measure.

If Measure A fails, Olivier said the city could still reach development agreements with businesses, but that it would be a harder process.

In 1933 Prohibition was repealed and it once again became legal to sell and use alcohol in America. At the time The Bee said Prohibition had violated the liberty of the citizens and that repeal was the right course.

Similarly, California has embarked on making marijuana legal. Medical marijuana use was first approved by the state’s voters in 1996. Fresno is now finding its way by authorizing medical use. The city could clearly approve recreational use as well, based on the voters’ will as shown in the Proposition 64 result. For now, Measure A is a necessary means to set up the taxing system. The Bee recommends voters approve it.

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