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    Cannabis Tax Presents Opportunity to Fund Vital Public Services

    By Rebecca Kaplan, Oakland City Councilmember At-Large

    In November 2016, the voters of California passed Proposition 64, legalizing cannabis for adult use. It passed by 57 percent of the vote statewide, and in Oakland, by a whopping 77 percent. Under Proposition 64, state officials will begin issuing permits on Jan. 1, 2018, allowing businesses to sell cannabis to Californians age 21 and over.

    But as other media outlets have reported, unlike in Colorado and Washington, where the first days of legalization were met with fanfare and created long lines at pot dispensaries, that date won’t mean much in California unless cities act quickly.  This is because, under Prop 64, businesses cannot produce or sell recreational marijuana unless they get permits from both the state and their local city.

    As Oakland’s Councilmember At-Large, I authored the nation’s first cannabis tax—,_Measure_F_(July_2009)—in 2009. The proposal, to create a special (higher) tax rate for cannabis in the City of Oakland, through the creation of a dedicated business license tax, was placed on the ballot and passed overwhelmingly by Oakland voters. 

    Now, as the State of California prepares for recreational cannabis sales for adults next year, and as the City of Oakland struggles to pay for vitally needed services including for the homeless, and to remedy illegal dumping and other threats to the community, I am calling for the City of Oakland to act to tax, and permit, cannabis sales for adults age 21+ through Oakland-permitted dispensaries. I am also calling on the Administration to implement my Resolution ( that City Council passed last year, which devotes a portion of new cannabis tax revenues to vital public needs, including homeless services, illegal dumping remediation, job training, and more.

    Oakland needs to fund expansion of vital public services, including homeless solutions and to remedy illegal dumping, which threatens public health. We should not miss an opportunity to bring in vitally needed tax dollars, by harnessing California’s coming legalization of cannabis for adult use.

    The people of Oakland voted overwhelmingly to support the legalization, taxation, and regulation of cannabis, and our city has successfully provided permitted medical cannabis dispensaries for over a decade—leading the nation in this effort. Now, as Adult Use cannabis sales are about to become legal in California, Oakland can, and should, build on this work by providing for adult use sales, including by allowing Oakland cannabis facilities to conduct both medical and adult use sales in compliance with state and local laws.

    As many other cities throughout our region do not expect to be ready by January 1, 2018, Oakland has the opportunity both to show moral leadership in ending the racist and wasteful “war on marijuana,” and to harness revenue to help fund local jobs and vital public needs.

    Councilmember At-Large Rebecca Kaplan was elected in 2008 to serve as Oakland’s citywide Councilmember; she was re-elected in 2016. She also serves on the Board of the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and as the Chair of the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC).