Measure Y, which would have taxed the commercial cultivation of marijuana to help pay for youth programs, failed to receive the two-thirds vote it needed to pass. Seth Perlman AP
Measure Y, which would have taxed the commercial cultivation of marijuana to help pay for youth programs, failed to receive the two-thirds vote it needed to pass. Seth Perlman AP

California Weed

Sacramento’s pot tax falls short at the polls

By Peter Hecht

phecht@sacbee.com

June 08, 2016 03:23 PM

Sacramento voters like the idea of taxing commercial cultivation of marijuana to help pay for youth programs in the city – but apparently not enough to put that into law.

The capital city’s Measure Y marijuana tax initiative earned just over 65 percent of the vote Tuesday night. But that was short of the two-thirds margin required to pass the measure to impose a special 5 percent business tax on future indoor commercial cultivation in Sacramento.

Measure Y would have directed marijuana cultivation revenue to a special fund dedicated to programs and services for children. Some of the money would have gone to city youth services. The majority would have gone to nonprofit groups offering programs including after-school enrichment, job training and gang diversion.

City Council member Jay Schenirer, who championed Measure Y, conceded Wednesday that the measure was unlikely to reach the margin to pass. “There are still votes out there, but I don’t envision it being enough to move us to two-thirds, unfortunately,” he said.

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Schenirer said he would lobby fellow City Council members to find other avenues for directing marijuana tax revenues to youth programs. “I think that 65 percent of the people saying we think that this is an important thing to do is a good start,” he said.

Measure Y itself would not have authorized any commercial cannabis production in Sacramento, but would have determined where tax revenue would go.

Sacramento officials are crafting regulations that could allow business permits for indoor marijuana growing facilities of up to 20,000 square feet in areas zoned for warehouse or light industrial use. The City Council is expected to consider an ordinance by the end of September to lay out potential rules for operation and location.

Such cannabis operations, if allowed, still would be subject to the city’s standard 4 percent business tax, and the council could decide how the money is spent. Measure Y required two-thirds voter approval as a special tax.

Elsewhere in the Sacramento region, voters in Nevada and Yuba counties delivered starkly different verdicts on marijuana cultivation measures.

In Nevada County, voters by a 58 to 42 percent margin defeated Measure W, which would have reinforced a local ban on outdoor marijuana cultivation. The Board of Supervisors chairman, Dan Miller, said supervisors would begin working on a new ordinance allowing outdoor pot farms with limitations to address community concerns.

In Yuba County, Measure A, which would have overturned an outdoor growing ban, was defeated by a 64 to 36 percent margin. Voters there also rejected an initiative, Measure B, that would have required at least four marijuana dispensaries in the county of 73,000 residents. It lost by 57 to 43 percent.

In Davis, voters approved a tax of up to 10 percent on recreational marijuana sales should California expand marijuana legalization in a November statewide initiative. However, city officials said they have no plans to allow marijuana stores.