Two weeks ago, Los Angeles County’s Board of Supervisors voted 3-2 in favor of a bill initiative that would’ve asked voters if marijuana tax revenue should aid in the revitalization of L.A.’s homeless community.
The proposed marijuana tax was deemed a favorable alternative to other failed attempts at a general sales tax hike and a “millionaire’s tax” in L.A. County. Early estimates predicted the tax would generate roughly $130 million in revenue, which would provide health services and housing for homeless families around the city.
Now it looks like the city will pull their bill ahead of the November ballot. Sheila Kuehl, the writer of the first proposal, has now submitted a motion to rescind the ballot measure. There were two major issues with the initiative that caused its creators to pull the plug.
Kuehl cited a “great deal of ambivalence” about the tax among those that provide services to the city’s homeless, such as substance abuse treatment facilities. Without the support of these service providers, Kuehl thought achieving the necessary two-thirds majority in November would be an insurmountable feat. “We certainly didn’t want to raise millions of dollars for a campaign and have it fail by two or three points,” she told the LA Times.
The other main setback with the proposed tax is timing. Because medicine cannot be taxed at retail, the majority of the revenue the tax would generate would come from recreational sales that technically aren’t legal yet. Proposition 64, or the AUMA, is also on the upcoming November ballot and aims to legalize the recreational possession and use of marijuana in California. Detractors of the tax bill claim it’s too early to allocate marijuana tax money that is yet to arrive.
“It’s premature to talk about what L.A. will do with cannabis tax revenue. Today, cannabis businesses are banned in L.A. County and illegal in the City of L.A. We need fair local licensing laws that align with state law. Until then, proposals like these are wishful thinking,” said Ariel Clark, chair of the Los Angeles Cannabis Task Force.
Los Angeles County dedicated $100 million of their budget to reducing homelessness, but the funding was a one-time cash infusion. County officials estimate it could cost roughly $450 million annually just to make a major improvement, not including the cost of housing construction. The county has another bill on November’s ballot aimed at homeless housing, proposing a $1.2 billion bond that would pay for housing development but not health and human services.
The Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority estimates that over 47,000 people in the county are without a place to live, and the number continues to rise. This upcoming election is also expected to usher in new Board members with a more progressive stance on the issue, so the progressive bill may have a better shot on next year’s ballot.
Cover Image Courtesy of Politico