Voters across 12 municipalities in California approved local marijuana tax ballot measures that should pave the way for the establishment or expansion of adult-use cannabis retailers.
While California legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2016, many municipalities have opted to ban cannabusinesses from operating in their jurisdiction. This has, in part, served to benefit the illicit cannabis market which continues to thrive in the Golden State.
This could be set to change with the latest ballot initiatives to reform California’s cannabis laws likely to result in more than 70 new retail licenses across the state. Most of these retail licenses will be awarded in L.A. County (25) and San Diego County (20).
On top of these, L.A. County now stands to issue 25 delivery licenses, 10 indoor cultivation licenses, 10 distribution licenses and 10 testing licenses. Priority in the licensing process will be given to social equity applicants.
In San Diego County, the state’s fifth most populous county, there are only five marijuana retailers in operation. The passage of Measure A means this is set to increase to 20 but for now ancillary cannabusinesses, such as cultivators and distributors, are technically not permitted to operate.
Marijuana business ballots were also approved in cities in Orange County, the traditionally more conservative part of California known as a ‘cannabis desert’ for its lack of marijuana retailers. Only Santa Ana, the county’s second largest city, currently has recreational cannabis dispensaries.
It may soon be joined by Huntington Beach, a city of 200,000 people, where voters approved a measure to award 10 retail licenses. However, Measure O primarily concerns marijuana business tax rates so local lawmakers will need to pass separate legislation to permit licensed cannabis retailers. Should this happen, Huntington Beach would be one of only a few cities along California’s 840 mile coastline that legally sells recreational cannabis.
Also in Orange County, voters in Laguna Woods approved a similar marijuana tax measure but this is likely to result in only one licensed cannabis retailer and this is also conditional on the passage of separate legislation.
Not all local marijuana tax measures were successful in California though. L.A. County’s three beach cities rejected proposals, while the initiative in Sacramento County failed to garner the two-thirds supermajority required to pass.
Still, California voters are largely showing they want expanded legal cannabis sales while county officials are becoming increasingly occupied with laying out the tax framework for local marijuana markets. While no new licenses have yet been awarded, it seems clear that more and more municipalities in California are looking to move away from local cannabis bans.