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March 24, 2017
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Jud Snyder
C’mon, get real, is this ‘Democracy in Action?’
February 9, 2017

WHEN CALIFORNIA VOTERS slovenly put the cart before the horse and approved Prop. 64 last November, it created a massive cleanup job as state, county and municipal representatives drew up hasty rules and ordinances curbing this marijuana intrusion into Sonoma County, as I’ve outlined in recent op-ed columns. 

The task sort of reminded me of city council members cleaning up horse dung following mounted horse brigades with colorfully garbed riders when we had horses in our Founders Day parades down Commerce Boulevard years ago.  

Well, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, under new chairwoman Shirlee Zane, performed a similar routine when it unanimously approved a tax on marijuana producers on unincorporated land in the county. 

Let me spell out the full language of Measure A, which will appear on your ballot Tuesday, March 7:

“Shall an ordinance be adopted imposing a cannabis business tax in unincorporated Sonoma County on cultivation up to $36 per square foot (annually adjusted by CPI indexes) or 10 percent on gross receipts and on other cannabis businesses up to gross receipts to fund essential county services such as addressing industry impacts, public safety, fire, health, housing, roads and environmental  protection with funds staying local and subject to audits generating  undetermined revenue until repealed?” 

A no vote would mean no taxes would be imposed on unincorporated land in the county. 

 

I GUESS IT’S A SIMPLE majority vote, for no mention was made of a two-thirds vote level. 

Neither is the word marijuana mentioned. The supervisors assumed every voter knows cannabis and marijuana are identical.

Basically, it’s only a tax on cannabis growers in unincorporated Sonoma County, but for several reasons every voter must vote on it, otherwise the state might grab any tax revenues. 

There are 14 columns of fine print explaining the proposed tax, and bravely I browsed all of them. They’re something only a lawyer could decode or maybe one of the cannabis growers in the unincorporated territory.

We never get any possible financial figures, for nobody, not even the lawyers who wrote Measure A, know how much this tax will yield. I thought at least one marijuana grower in the affected territory would file a rebuttal but no one did.

Neither did we get any financial figures from the Elections Department how much money this special election March 7 will cost all the cities and county voters when the results are finally tabulated. Something else for city councils in Sonoma County to worry about. 

 

SO, WE HAVE THIS complicated introductory and bewildering paragraph, approved by all five supervisors, explaining a tax measure that only applies to an unknown quantity of cannabis growers in unincorporated county lands but every voter in the county has in his or her mailbox. 

I don’t even want to think about the voter turnout March 7. Is this how democracy works these days? 

We can’t even blame Donald Trump. All we can blame are the people who got Prop. 64 on the state ballot. Here we go again with echoes of the stupidity of putting the cart before the horse.

Of course, we may feel a lot better about the whole situation if Measure A yields a field of wheelbarrows loaded with genuine tax revenues. 

But color me skeptical on this possibility. Besides, it will take a few years down the road before we find this out.

Sigh!