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Sonoma County supervisors set special election for marijuana tax

(Petaluma360) Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday voted to call a special election this March asking voters to impose new taxes on the cultivation and sale of marijuana which, if passed, is expected to provide the funding for implementation of broad and sweeping new regulations governing the county’s lucrative marijuana industry.

Supervisors called the election for March 7 to answer the question of whether or not to tax and regulate thousands of marijuana growers currently operating largely underground. The process, which some supervisors acknowledged was accelerated in the past year, sets the stage for what is emerging as one of the most significant land-use decisions in the county’s recent history. County officials estimate the new taxes imposed on cultivation and sales would generate more than $6 million in the first year. Initially, the proposed tax on indoor and outdoor cultivation would range from 50 cents per square foot to $18.75 per square foot. Taxes would also be levied on other marijuana businesses including dispensaries and distributors. The success of the proposed tax measure, however, could rest on a disputed county proposal to allow commercial growing operations in rural residential neighborhoods. At a five-hour public hearing Tuesday, marijuana industry representatives and growers said they want to come out of the shadows and into legal compliance, and are willing to tax themselves. But many speakers also voiced strong support for operating on rural lots totaling more than 2 acres in size, outside city limits.

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