San Jose Set to Vote Nation's Highest Pot Tax

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    Measure U, which requires a majority vote, asks voters in the Nov. 2 election to consider a proposal to impose up to a 10 percent tax on the facilities, with the revenue used to fund city services.

    As California voters go to the polls next month to vote on the legalization of recreational marijuana, voters in San Jose will consider a proposed marijuana business tax, which if passed would make San Jose the highest-taxing city in the state for medical marijuana facilities.

    Measure U, which requires a majority vote, asks voters in the Nov. 2 election to consider a proposal to impose up to a 10 percent tax on the facilities, with the revenue used to fund city services.

    San Jose Medical Marijuana Ordinance

    A tax would be placed on the planting, cultivation, harvesting, transporting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, processing, preparing, storing, packaging, and wholesale and retail sales of marijuana in San Jose.

    If it passes, the tax would generate millions of dollars in revenue from the city's marijuana facilities, which number somewhere around 40 to 50.

    The proposal has drawn crowds of supporters and opponents to City Council meetings this year.

    Proponents, among them Councilman Pierluigi Oliverio, who proposed the ordinance, say the revenue collected from the tax would help balance the budget and fund city services like road paving, libraries, police, firefighters, parks and senior programs.

    "It's doing what other cities in California are doing to collect revenue. This is the only type of tax that would pass in this environment," Oliverio said. "We tax alcohol, we tax cigarettes...this would fall into the same category."

    All revenue collected from the facilities would be required to  have financial audits, Oliverio said.

    But opponents of the ordinance say it will limit the options for medical cannabis patients and open up their private medical records to police and other city officials.

    One of the city's most outspoken advocates. Cannabis activist Dave Hodges, who founded the city's first medical marijuana dispensary, says leveraging a ten percent tax on the city's clinics is "just ridiculous" and "would put an undue burden on patients."

    Regulations would additionally prohibit marijuana businesses from operating within 500 feet of homes, schools, libraries, parks or daycare centers, Oliverio said.

    Among those opposed to the ordinance is the Silicon Valley chapter of Americans for Safe Access, a national organization that works to ensure safe and legal access to medical cannabis and protect patients' rights.

    The organization claims that the cost of any tax beyond 3 percent would be passed on to the patients, the majority of whom already spend several hundred dollars a month on medicine and also pay a state sales tax.

    "Many patients won't be able to afford this increase and they will have to turn to the black market where it is legal for them to buy medicine  and much cheaper. This tax will reward drug dealers and punish law-abiding citizens," a statement on the Americans for Safe Access website said.

    More information about Americans for Safe Access can be found at  http://siliconvalleyasa.org/.

    Oakland became the first city in the country to tax medical marijuana in 2009 when voters approved a 1.2 percent tax for collectives.Berkeley is also weighing the possibility of taxing medi-pot clubs.