A city resolution declaring a “public health emergency” over access to medical marijuana is expected to pass at Tuesday’s council meeting, but two other pot proposal will likely draw more debate at council meetings this week.

The council voted unanimously to pass the resolution back in May, but the item still needs to go before the council’s consent calender before it becomes law — all items on the consent calender are  typically approved at the same time without any discussion. before it becomes law. While access to marijuana in Oakland – medical or otherwise – continues to be available, the routine declaration serves to reinforce the city’s stance supporting medical marijuana. The proclamation was first passed in 1998 after growers and patients were arrested, city official Barbara Parker told a Bay Area newspaper when the measure was first up for a vote.

But council members Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan’s proposal to radically change the laws surrounding marijuana cultivation have already caused an uproar because the new policies would favor large-scale marijuana operations over smaller growers. The fees associated with the new permit would run more than $200,000 a year.

While Attorney General Jerry Brown’s guidelines on medical marijuana stipulate that corporations cannot grow and sell marijuana for profit, the proposed new ordinance strips away the requirement that only not-for-profit collectives can grow and distribute marijuana.

On Thursday, July 22, the city council will consider putting forward a new tax on medical marijuana, which could bring in millions for the cash-strapped city. If voters approve the tax that Kaplan has proposed for the November 2 general election, businesses associated with the sales and cultivation of marijuana would pay a special tax beyond the current 1.8 percent tax on everything sold.

In the fiscal year that just ended last month, those dispensaries sold $27.8 million in marijuana products. Of course, If the state’s voters choose to legalize marijuana by passing Proposition 19 in the same same election, marijuana sales in Oakland will surely grow significantly.

Using last year’s figures, the tax will already generate about half a million dollars, according to a city report. But if the tax were increased to eight percent, as Reid and Kaplan have proposed, it would bring in about $2.2 million dollars. The city is considering establishing the new marijuana tax as high as 12 percent, or about $3.3 million in revenue. The cannabis community has proposed a more modest 5 percent tax that would bring in about $1.4 million each year, assuming total sales remain at $27.8 million.






About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.