California lawmaker calls for cannabis “environment tax”

By Oscar Pascual |

A vote for cannabis legalization in California might be a year away, but one lawmaker believes it’s already time for more marijuana taxes.

Although the state already generates up to $109 million tax revenue from the sale of medical cannabis in dispensaries, former Republican state Senator and vice-chair of the Board of Equalization George Runner wants even more via a newly-proposed excise tax, reports KCBS San Francisco.

“There are increased law enforcement costs and tremendous environmental issues” associated with pot growing, Runner told KCBS. “Why should all taxpayers be paying for this out of the General Fund?”

Runner cites emerging illegal activity in California’s Emerald Triangle as a reason to add an excise tax, which would be distributed to local governments in areas with a heavy presence of marijuana growing.

The region, which spans three different counties, accounts for 60 percent of the country’s marijuana. Illegal grow sites set up in the Emerald Triangle are devastating the local environment by diverting water or stealing it altogether.

“What we’ve seen are several reservoirs … that deal with mountain stream and springs being diverted into ponds and used for unlawful cultivation,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife Lt. Chris Stoots in a June interview with the Times-Standard.

The lack of regulations built in the state’s medical marijuana laws is likely the cause of illegal marijuana-related activity such as money laundering and illegal grow sites harmful to the environment. A bill set for the November 2016 ballot to legalize marijuana for recreational use would incorporate a regulatory commission to better handle California’s cannabis production.

But until then, Runner believes the additional tax should be paid for by pot users.

“As a matter of taxpayer equity, the medical marijuana industry and its end users, rather than ordinary California taxpayers, should pay the costs of combatting marijuana-related crimes and other externalities,” Runner told the Inquisitr.

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