Measures MM and MA: Long Beach's Confusing Ballot Measures

Awesome outfit, bro—but you gonna vote?
Awesome outfit, bro—but you gonna vote?
Photo by Chris Victorio

In a recent news story titled “Supporters of Proposition 64 Hope Voters Will End California’s Reefer Madness,” it was brought to our attention that some of the information regarding the Long Beach medical marijuana measures weren’t entirely accurate. So here’s our attempt at amending our supposed mistakes, because why not?

We stated that Measures MM and MA are competing. Although these two measures will be on the ballot, the measures aren’t actually competing. Measure MM, known as the Regulation of Medical Marijuana Businesses, is the only medical marijuana measure on the ballot. It was written collaboratively by a cancer patient, cannabis lawyers and active members of the medical marijuana community, who gathered nearly 40,000 signatures to get it onto the ballot. The measure establishes a regulatory framework for medical cannabis in Long Beach, allowing between 26 and 32 storefronts to operate under strict geographic regulations.

Measure MM also creates a tax structure that places gross receipts at six percent for dispensaries. Cultivation tax would be at $10 per square foot, and those who aren’t involved in the retail side of the industry—manufacturers, testers and distributors—will be required to pay an annual tax of $1,000 minimum.

And this is where it gets sticky: Measure MA, known as the Long Beach Marijuana Taxation Measure, only affects the tax structure created in MM. In other words, MA creates a whole new set of tax regulations that, if voted in, will replace the taxation segment in Measure MM. It does not provide an opposing regulatory framework, which we implied in our news story.

What about you, Hello Kitty?
What about you, Hello Kitty?
Chris Victorio

Measure MA, which was written by the city, would start with a gross receipts tax rate of six percent. That rate can be increased to eight percent gross receipts by a vote in the city council, but it can never exceed that max. The cultivation tax under Measure MA is also noted at $10 per square foot. Lastly, all marijuana businesses will be required to pay a minimum annual tax of $1,000.

If Prop 64 passes, however, recreational marijuana dispensaries will be subject to an eight to 12 percent gross receipts tax-rate. Cultivation tax for non-medical marijuana will range from $12 to $15 per square foot. Those who aren’t involved in the retail side of things (ie: processing, manufacturing, testing, etc.) will be required to pay a gross receipts tax-rate of six to eight percent. For medical marijuana, however, taxes will be equivalent to Measure MM’s.

We said that Measure MM has lower tax rates than Measure MA, which isn’t entirely true—MA just creates higher taxes for recreational use. That said, because Measure MM doesn’t have a tax structure for recreational use, the city felt that it would lose money, which is why Measure MA was created. The city estimates MA to bring $13 million in revenue, which would go toward hiring police, firemen and repairing infrastructure.

We stated previously that the city wanted Measure MA to pass and not Measure MM, which is impossible—MA can’t pass without MM. The city wants both MM and MA to pass so they can rake in the extra revenue.

But here’s the reality: Measure MM will bring in plenty of revenue on its own. According to Long Beach medical marijuana advocate Larry King, the city is using the fact that crime rates are up as a means of leveraging voters to support Measure MA. “The city’s doing a non-campaigning job saying that they’re going to lose money on MM and your children won’t be safe,” he said.

As King points out, those who see both cannabis measures on the ballot and are pro-marijuana are likely to vote yes on both without understanding that Measure MA drastically affects Measure MM—and benefits the city, rather than benefitting the people. Because of this, King predicts, both measures could easily pass.

So there you have it: The Long Beach City Council has officially created the most confusing weed measure in the history of weed measures. And they say they’re not stoners…

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