Cannabis tax on Ojai ballot

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Photo by Rick Proctor/Unsplash

Austin Widger, Ojai Valley News reporter
Measure G, a city of Ojai cannabis general tax measure, is on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
The ballot measure asks: “Shall the measure approving an immediate 3% tax on cannabis businesses, which will potentially add $465,000 to $1,550,000 annually to fund general city services, and approving authority for the city of Ojai to increase the tax on cannabis businesses up to 10 percent of gross receipts in the future, until the voters decide otherwise, be adopted?”
The measure requires 50 percent plus one votes to be passed.
According to Ojai City Manager James Vega: “The tax can be adjusted by the City Council in the future. It can be adjusted up or down anywhere up to 10 percent. But we would set it at 3% at this time if it were to pass.”
The tax would go directly to the city’s general fund so it can be used for general city services. It would be beneficial for the city in the short term to help make up the $1.8 million shortfall from the coronavirus pandemic, Vega said.
Long term, the funds could be used for basically any kind of project.
Vega said: “This is a general tax, not a special tax, so it is not limited in what it can be used for. It can be utilized for future projects or general services. When Measure C was adopted (in March), we identified key categories of projects that we wanted to use the funding for, such as road maintenance, capital improvement projects, fire mitigation, etc. This can be used for these projects or for others that the council identifies.”
One concern expressed by the local dispensary owners is that if the tax passes, they would end up raising their prices. The owners said they are worried that people will return to the black market if they raise their prices.
Vega said: “The City Council took this issue very seriously, and created a committee to look closely at the issue. This is also partly why the city did not immediately implement a tax. The committee looked at other cities and proposed what we think is a reasonable tax (3%). Most neighboring cities are higher.”
Port Hueneme initially passed a 5 percent tax, but reduced it to 2 percent in September 2019. However, this was likely due to increasing competition, Vega said. 
There are eight dispensaries in Port Hueneme compared with the three in Ojai, with 10 more proposed in Oxnard coming soon.
With a 3% tax rate, it is projected that $465,000 would be added to the city’s general fund.