Step by Step Pomona voters approved a cannabis tax regime ahead of proposed zoning for cannabis businesses

Pomona could become a cannabis business hub and simultaneously fix its current looming deficit, with the implementation of a new tax measure that was approved in November. The city’s proximity to Los Angeles makes it a prime target for the continued growth of California’s cannabis industry. Slowly but surely, the long reign of cannabis prohibition is coming to an end in Pomona.

On Aug. 6, the Pomona City Council directed Measure PC to be placed on the ballot at the midterm elections. Exactly two months later, on Nov. 6, Pomona voters approved Measure PC, or the Cannabis Business Tax Measure, with over 70 percent of residents voting in favor of the bill. It establishes a tax of up to six percent of gross receipts. It also establishes a tax at $10 per square foot of canopy for cultivation businesses.

Mayor Tim Sandoval said in a statement that he’s “thankful to the residents” of Pomona for voicing their opinion in developing a cannabis tax regime that both protects residents and generates revenue for the city.

The lure of the “Green Rush” is especially appealing to Pomona’s leadership. The taxes could generate anywhere between $400,000 to $500,000 annually—and considering Pomona’s current fiscal crisis—it’s sorely needed. Pomona is facing upwards of $8 to $10 million in debt by the 2020-21 fiscal year. A separate measure, Measure PG, established a sales tax on general goods that could also help combat the city’s financial problems.

“These revenues could be used for all city services or programs,” according to Measure PC, “including increasing public safety activities and enforcement, crime prevention, and providing and maintaining other essential municipal services that support the residents and businesses in Pomona. The city council may adjust the cannabis business tax rates as long as the adjusted rates do not exceed the maximum rates approved by voters. The cannabis business tax shall also be adjusted annually to reflect increases in the Consumer Price Index. This tax would remain in place until repealed by the voters.”

Pomona banned cannabis operations in late 2017, but the Pomona City Council spent that time developing an ordinance to regulate those types of businesses. After seeing success with cannabis in other Southern California cities, Pomona’s leadership is almost ready.

“These revenues could be used for all City services or programs, including increasing public safety activities and enforcement, crime prevention, and providing and maintaining other essential municipal services that support the residents and businesses in Pomona.”

 

A separate measure, the proposed Cannabis Act, would be the next step. The Cannabis Act would amend Pomona’s zoning code to allow cannabis businesses within a “safety access cannabis” zone in the downtown area and in slices of industrial areas of the city. But the rollout of implementing cannabis business zones could drag into the general election in 2020, after it was shelved by city council, delaying the legislative process.

Preventing crime is always a high priority in Pomona. According to the latest reported annual crime data derived from police records, the crime rate in Pomona is 18 percent higher than the average crime rate in California and 29 percent higher than the national average. In years past, the rate has been much higher. Pomona’s rich hip-hop community, which includes Snoop Dogg’s Pomona City Movement, has vocally denounced violence in the city. Considering the crime factor, Pomona leaders are taking a slow, sensible approach to regulating cannabis, while assuring the city’s residents that they are taking all precautions.

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