Sonoma Valley voters will be asked March 7 to consider Measure A, a tax on cannabis cultivation in unincorporated Sonoma County – it’s the next step in the process of legalizing recreational marijuana use, which state voters approved in the Nov. 8 election with 57 percent support for Proposition 64.

County officials estimate that, if approved, the tax in 2018 – the first year the sale and taxation of marijuana will be allowed -- would generate about $6 million for the county general fund. That revenue, County officials say, would go toward costs associated with regulating the local pot industry, i.e. permitting, agricultural regulation, code enforcement, etc. In December, the County passed a broad land-use ordinance, regulating both indoor and outdoor cannabis cultivation – Measure A, in essence, is how the county plans to pay for that ordinance. It requires a simple majority to pass.

Given that 59.1 percent of Sonoma County voters ticked the “yes” box for Proposition 64 last fall, Measure A is likely to pass – as well it should.

One of the strongest arguments for the movement to legalize recreational marijuana in the first place has been about control – sociologically and economically. It’s a widely used product in Sonoma County and has been for years – why continue spending countless hours and dollars on law enforcement while seeing absolutely no economic benefit?

The dollar signs many proponents of legalization have in their eyes is largely around the potential boon from a sales tax on marijuana – this, of course, isn’t that. But a tax on cultivation makes sense – let the industry pay for the regulations necessary for it to thrive in mainstream society. If passed, Measure A would initially impose a tax of between 50 cents and $5 per square foot for outdoor growers and $1.88 to $18.75 per square foot for indoor cultivators. The tax would work on a sliding scale, with larger, more impactful growers at the pricier end. Supervisors would later have the option to raise the tax up to a cap of $10 per square foot for outdoor growers and $38 per square foot for indoor growers, or 10 percent of gross receipts per year.

So far no organized opposition to Measure A has emerged. The Sonoma County Growers Alliance supports the measure – though its director Tawnie Logan stresses the tax should be monitored and adjusted accordingly as to not burden small-scale growers. The Sonoma County Taxpayers Association is not taking an official stance on the measure, but the group’s executive director, Dan Drummond, said he personally supports the proposal since it is paid for by the industry.

Measure A is the necessary next step in Sonoma County’s march toward a socially sound, economically beneficial legal cannabis industry.

The County has been holding its breath on the prospects of a viable, legal recreational marijuana industry for years. It’s time to inhale.

We recommend a “yes” on Measure A.

– Jason Walsh, editor

– John Burns, publisher