Future Ballot Measure Could Strip Local Govs’ Power Over Weed

Five years after voters legalized adult use marijuana in California, cannabis advocates are discussing a ballot measure that would expand access by stripping local governments of their licensing powers. It’s an idea that would spark widespread opposition from municipalities and the organizations that represent them.

One of the keys to Prop 64’s success was getting local governments to sign on. Backers of the measure accomplished this by giving them plenty of control to approve or deny cannabis businesses in their communities. Fast forward to 2021 and an eye-popping 80% of local governments have used that power to prohibit marijuana sales. Critics say the result is a thriving black market.

Taxes and fees are another big issue. The proposed ballot measure would also remove the current cultivation tax, bring the excise tax down from 15% to 5%, and remove local governments’ power to tax cannabis altogether. Jurisdictions would instead receive one-fifth of state excise tax revenue.

The California Association of Counties and the League of California Cities say it’s too soon to directly comment on the proposal. The idea is still in its infancy.

“I wouldn’t call what we’re doing campaigning right now. I would call what we’re doing team-building,” Sean Kiernan, executive director of the veterans advocacy group Weed for Warriors and the California Cannabis Reform Project, told the Sacramento Bee.

Kiernan’s group has just started discussions with lawmakers. It would cost $6 million to $8 million to get a measure on the ballot. At that price, he says he’s aiming for a measure in 2022 or 2024.