SONOMA COUNTY (CBS SF) – Voters in unincorporated Sonoma County on Tuesday will consider approving a business tax on cultivation and sales of medical and non-medical cannabis to fund essential services including roads, public safety, fire services and housing.

Measure A was placed on the special elections ballot by the Board of Supervisors and needs a majority approval to pass. The estimated cost of the special election is $400,000.

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The tax on outdoor cultivation would be $10 per square foot, $38 per square foot of indoor cultivation, $22 per square foot of mixed-light cultivation or 10 percent of gross receipts per fiscal year.

The 10 percent tax applies to distributors, distribution facilities, testing labs, transporters, manufactures and nurseries. The tax revenue would go in the county’s general fund budget.

Board Chair Shirlee Zane, former supervisor Efren Carrillo and other proponents of the tax say taxpayers have borne the public safety, public health and criminal prosecution costs of illegal cannabis operations that have been in the shadows for too long.

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Proponents say a well-regulated industry provides the opportunity for legitimate businesses to serve the needs of medical marijuana patients, and without a funding mechanism there will be no permitting process for marijuana businesses.

The board of directors of Sonoma County Growers Alliance opposes Measure A, claiming the 10 percent tax is too high and does not provide a clear means of obtaining marijuana permits if the measure fails.

The Alliance says Measure A’s ordinance was hastily placed before voters as a general tax to raise money for any use the county sees fit, and cannabis operators will explore starting their businesses outside the county.

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