Committee Discusses Medical Marijuana Regulations, Taxes

PLACERVILLE -- An advisory committee on taxing medical marijuana grappled with a myriad of variables when it comes to regulating marijuana growers and distributors. A local tax is allowed by the new medical marijuana state law. And the approval of Prop 64, which legalizes recreational use, may also come into play.

There were plenty of people at the meeting who objected to an expansion of marijuana grows near their homes. They wanted to know if taxing the drug will help enforce public nuisance violations and crime.

Others like Rich Miller of the American Alliance for Medical Cannabis believes that business licenses, special use and agricultural fees along with city, county and state taxes could price small growers and patients out of the market.

“The stacking of taxes is going to make it extremely difficult for patients to get access to their medicine," said Miller.

Others believe that economies of scale and the fact that growers no longer have to spend legal fees and evade the law will eventually bring costs down despite new taxes.

“It’s gong to lower the prices once this becomes regular business," said Matt Vaughn, president of the Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association of El Dorado County.

Advisory member and El Dorado County Supervisor Sue Novacel said the county will struggle with finding a fair level of tax while recovering money needed to administer new marijuana laws.

“How do you tax to not only take care of public safety, how so do you use that taxation to get education to those who need it and get help for all those who have issues with substance abuse," said Novacel.

There will likely to be at least another public hearing before county staff comes up with a comprehensive marijuana ordinance the board of supervisors to vote on, most likely after the November election when the fate of Proposition 64 will be known.