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Long Beach City Council votes to pursue medical marijuana tax

July 6, 2010 | 10:23 pm

The Long Beach City Council voted 8 to 1 on Tuesday night to hold a public hearing next month on whether to place a measure on the November ballot that would levy a 5% tax on medical marijuana collectives.

The explosive growth of pot dispensaries in recent years -- and the drug’s potential legalization statewide -- has presented a rare opportunity for cities desperately searching for new sources of revenues. Oakland already taxes medical marijuana, and Berkeley, Sacramento and San Jose are considering similar measures that would tax collectives 2.5% to 5%.

For some members of the Long Beach City Council, which voted in May to regulate medical marijuana collectives, taxation is the next logical step.

“We tax alcohol. We tax cigarettes. Why wouldn’t we look at taxing marijuana?” said Councilman Patrick O’Donnell. “We’re turning over every rock to find new revenues, and under one of those rocks may be marijuana.”

In addition to the tax on medical marijuana dispensaries, Long Beach’s plan, drafted by the city’s Department of Financial Management, calls for an additional 10% tax on other marijuana businesses that would go into effect only if California voters passed Proposition 19, which would legalize marijuana for recreational use.

Medical marijuana cultivation sites also would be taxed by the square foot.

-- Tony Barboza in Long Beach