Local ballot measures across California could significantly expand marijuana industry footprint

The November election offers the prospect that California’s legal cannabis industry footprint could expand significantly, depending on a couple of dozen local ballot measures.

According to research by Hirsh Jain, government affairs director at San Jose-based retailer Caliva, and California NORML Deputy Director Ellen Komp, at least 26 localities across California will have pro-marijuana initiatives on the ballot.

Jain estimates those measure could result in as many as 150 new business permits being made available to the industry.

“You could credibly say like 100 or 150 licenses will result … within months of these passing,” Jain said, noting the election could have a “staggering impact” on the legal industry, including roughly 50 retail permits that could be awarded.

The ballot measures vary:

  • Many would authorize new business licenses or expand existing local industries.
  • Others merely seek voter approval for new cannabis taxes, often the starting point for cities and counties looking to opt into the industry since new taxes have to be approved by voters under California law.
  • Still other measures are advisory questions that don’t bind city councils or county officials to repealing existing industry bans.

If nothing else, Jain said, the election will keep momentum rolling for more localities to embrace the legal cannabis market.

“There’s a fundamental shift” happening across California, Jain said, with many cities and counties closely watching their neighbors to see how the legal marijuana industry has developed. Many have reached a tipping point.

“In the next 30-36 months, all of the chess pieces on the board are going to fill up. California will not be a cannabis desert,” Jain predicted.

Below is a summary of localities and their related marijuana ballot measures.

Banning

This Southern California desert town near Palm Springs will vote whether to:

  • Allow distributors to set up shop.
  • Impose a distribution tax of up to 10% on company gross receipts.

The town already permits retailers, cultivators, manufacturing and testing.

Calaveras County

The eastern Sierra county, home to hundreds of cannabis farmers, will vote on a new cultivation tax structure.

If approved, the tax system would be based on square foot of canopy, instead of the current tax that’s based on dry weight of marijuana.

County supervisors approved a new cultivation ordinance last October.

Calabasas

In this small town northwest of Los Angeles, voters will decide on a general cannabis business tax of up to 10% on gross receipts, essentially a starting point for the City Council to craft an industry ordinance.

The city currently prohibits all marijuana businesses.

Carson

This L.A. suburb will vote on whether to allow four “commercial cannabis operation centers.” The measure appears to leave the door open to allowing licensees to choose the types of companies – retail, cultivation, manufacturing – they would operate.

Commerce

Another L.A. suburb, voters will weigh in on six MJ company-development agreements struck between city officials and businesses.

Costa Mesa

This Orange County city could become the second to allow commercial cannabis shops if voters approve a ballot question allowing the City Council to establish a retail marijuana tax of 4% to 7%.

The city already allows manufacturing, testing and distribution.

Encinitas

Voters in this beach town north of San Diego will decide whether to allow commercial marijuana cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and up to four retail shops.

The city currently prohibits all cannabis businesses.

Fairfield

In this town northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area, voters will weigh in on Measure C. It would establish a general cannabis business tax of up to $10 per square foot of canopy for cultivators, 6% of gross receipts for retailers and 4% of gross receipts for all other license types.

Hawthorne

Another L.A. suburb, voters here will decide whether to approve a 5% gross receipts general cannabis business tax.

The city currently prohibits all marijuana businesses.

Jurupa Valley

Voters in this desert town east of Los Angeles will decide whether to allow up to seven new marijuana retailers, along with some zoning changes.

Laguna Woods

Another Orange County city, this ballot measure is advisory only: If voters back it, there’s no certainty the town will move forward with cannabis business licensing.

In particular, the ballot question asks if voters want the city to authorize marijuana retailers.

The city currently prohibits all cannabis businesses.

La Habra

A third Orange County city with a marijuana ballot question, this one would authorize four cannabis-delivery businesses and a tax of up to 6% on gross receipts.

The city already permits distributors and testing labs.

Lemon Grove

In this San Diego suburb, voters will decide on a general cannabis business tax of up to 8% of gross receipts.

The city currently allows only medical marijuana dispensaries and no other types of businesses, so a yes vote could open the door to recreational businesses.

Madera

Voters in this Central Valley town will weigh in on whether to establish a general cannabis business tax of up to:

  • $10 per square foot of canopy for cultivators.
  • 6% of gross receipts for retailers.
  • 4% of gross receipts for all other business types.

The city currently prohibits marijuana businesses.

Marysville

In this town north of Sacramento, voters will consider a general marijuana and hemp business tax of up to:

  • $10 per square foot of canopy for cultivators.
  • 6% of gross receipts for retailers.
  • 4% gross receipts for all other business types.

Ojai

Voters in this city near Santa Barbara will vote on a general cannabis business tax that will begin at 3% of gross receipts for all businesses.

However, city officials could increase that levy to as much as 10%.

Porterville

A Central Valley town, voters will decide whether to support a general cannabis business tax of up to $25 per square foot of canopy for cultivators or 10% of gross receipts.

San Bruno

A suburb south of San Francisco, voters will decide whether to support a general cannabis business tax of up to 10% of gross receipts.

The city currently prohibits all marijuana businesses.

San Joaquin County

This Central Valley county, which includes Stockton, will vote on a general cannabis business tax of 3.5% to 8% of gross receipts for all business types as well as an annual $2-per-square-foot fee for growers.

Solana Beach

Voters in this town, another San Diego suburb, will decide whether to allow at least two storefront marijuana retailers along with indoor cultivation and delivery.

Recreational sales would be taxed at 1.25%.

The city currently prohibits all cannabis businesses.

Sonoma 

This city, in the heart of Northern California wine country, is asking voters to choose between two cannabis ballot measures, unless one is removed by Friday, Aug. 7.

The first, a more restrictive measure placed on the ballot by the City Council, would establish a general cannabis business tax of up to:

  • 4% of gross receipts for retailers, manufacturers and indoor growers.
  • 3% for distributors.
  • 2.5% for outdoor cultivators.
  • 2% for testing labs.

The second, a looser measure supported by local marijuana advocates, would remove license caps on all cannabis business types.

Trinity County

Voters in one of the three famed counties that comprise California’s Emerald Triangle will decide on a general marijuana cultivation tax:

  • For cannabis flower, the tax would be $15.44 per pound.
  • For marijuana leaves, it would be $4.59 per pound.
  • For fresh cannabis plant material, the tax would be $2.16 per pound.

The measure would also establish an annual 2.5% gross receipts tax for retailers, though the county does not yet permit retailers.

Vacaville

This town, nestled halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco, is asking voters to consider Measure V, a general cannabis business tax of:

  • $10 per square foot of canopy for indoor growers.
  • $7 per square foot for mixed-light growers.
  • $4 for cultivators that use no artificial lighting.
  • $2 per square foot for nurseries.

Residents also will vote on a 6%-gross-receipts tax for retailers, 3% for distributors and 2% for testing labs.

The city currently prohibits all marijuana businesses.

Ventura

Voters in this town, just north of L.A., will choose whether to adopt a general cannabis business tax of up to $10 per square foot of canopy for cultivators, 8% gross receipts for retailers and 4% for all other business types.

The city currently prohibits all cannabis businesses.

Ventura County

Fitted between L.A. and Santa Barbara counties, this county is asking its voters to weigh Measure O, which would allow commercial cultivation, processing, manufacturing and distribution – but not retail sales – in unincorporated parts of the county.

The county currently prohibits all marijuana businesses.

Yountville

Also located in California’s wine country, Yountville is asking voters to decide Ballot Measure T, which would authorize:

  • A single retail operation in the city.
  • A local cannabis tax of 3% of gross receipts.

The city currently prohibits all cannabis businesses.

John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]

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