The report by Fitch Ratings, “Local Taxes May Challenge Cannabis Legalization in California,” warns that state and local taxes may combine to threaten the government revenue expected from the sale of legalized cannabis and cannabis products. The recreational use of the drug will be legal in California starting Jan. 1 under Proposition 64, the Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana Act, passed by voters last November.
The state will levy a tax of 15 percent on the purchase of all marijuana, including the sale of medical pot. Many local governments are still working out how best to cash in. Voters in the city of Salinas approved a tax of up to $25 per square foot of space used for cultivating, while further north, Humboldt County is more grower-friendly with a the cultivation tax that tops out at $3 per square foot.
More than 60 cities and counties have now passed new taxes on marijuana businesses with rates between 7.75 percent and 9.75 percent. Added to the state marijuana tax, state and local sales taxes and other business taxes, the tax rate on marijuana in California is likely to be the highest of any of the states that have adopted a policy of legalization.