Measure R faces opposition with midterms weeks away

DALE SATRE, @DaleSatre

Contra Costa County voters have a thick packet of state and city propositions on the ballot this November, but a county ballot measure is being proposed as well.

Measure R, sponsored by the county Board of Supervisors, proposes to allow and tax the cannabis industry in unincorporated areas of the county, such as Bay Point, Discovery Bay and Pacheco.

If approved by a simple majority vote, the county will start granting land and business permits to businesses that grow, manufacture or distribute cannabis in unincorporated areas. The county currently bans commercial marijuana growth and distribution in its zoning districts. According to the county’s contracted consulting firm HdL Companies, the taxes would generate about $1.7 to $4.4 million in revenue.

The county would start taxing $7 per square foot of canopy space for indoor growing structures, starting January 1, 2019. Other tax rates include $4 per square foot of canopy space for mixed-light cultivation structures, $2 per square foot of outdoor cultivation space and $1 per square foot for structures operating as nurseries. This includes a provision authorizing the county to raise taxes with local inflation in the Bay Area. Measure R doesn’t affect personal marijuana growth or use.

“Too many unregulated cannabis operations have damaged our precious open spaces, diverted our streams and increased violent crime,” wrote county Supervisors Karen Mitchoff and John Gioia in favor of Measure R in the Contra Costa County voter information guide. “Measure R would fund the implementation of strict standards and location requirements for commercial cannabis businesses… [and] encourage cannabis businesses to join the regulated market and result in safer and more responsible cannabis use.”

Jack Weir, President of the Contra Costa Taxpayers Association, wrote the argument against Measure R.

“The County faces over $1 billion in unfunded pension obligations… [it] should more aggressively address the pension problem, rather than seeking more revenues,” said Weir.

Ruben Hernandez, the principal planner of Contra Costa County, drafted the Measure with his department.

“The funds generated would go into the general fund,” he said. “There is no requirement to use these funds for specifically marijuana related purposes, but the Board of Supervisors would like to set aside a pot of money for regulating marijuana.”

Contra Costa citizens voted 64 percent in favor of Proposition 64 in 2016 to allow tightly regulated personal marijuana use, according to election data, but city governments in the county have resisted marijuana commercialization banning cannabis-based businesses. Currently, only Richmond and El Sobrante allow a local cannabis industry in the county.