EDITORIAL on OVN OPINION page: Cannabis vote to be trumped?

After originally serving on the subcommittee that recommended Measure G — the Ojai cannabis tax — be placed on the Nov. 3 ballot, Councilmembers Suza Francina and Bill Weirick introduced an agenda item for the Dec. 8 City Council meeting to discuss the implementation of the measure. The Ojai Valley News’ position is that any move to alter or overturn the measure, which automatically goes into effect 10 days after the vote is certified, would nullify the votes of 3,165 people, and drive the city deeper into debt.


What we voted for:
What the voters saw when 69.2% of them voted for Measure G was this text:
"Shall the measure approving an immediate 3% tax on cannabis businesses, which will potentially add $465,000-$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% of gross receipts in the future, until the voters decide otherwise, be adopted?"
Clearly, it is not a measure designed for two council people to come in and change before it takes effect.


Who is exempt?:
Qualified medical cannabis patients will be exempt from the city’s cannabis tax.


Why we need it:
With a city budget shortfall of $1.8 million, the expected anticipated $465,000 in revenue from the cannabis tax is now desperately needed for city services. How will the city take care of fire mitigation and basic services without this tax money? Is there an alternative plan? Must the council allow more dispensaries to make up the difference with a lower tax? The reason our city is functioning at all is because of the built-up reserves that are now half gone due to the pandemic.


What our neighbors are doing?
Every other city has a cannabis tax higher than 3%, the next lowest being Port Hueneme and Santa Barbara at 5%.


Ojai votes matter:
How can the councilmembers justify turning their backs and canceling 3,165 Ojai voters who voted for Measure G? We urge the council to resist pandering to special-interest groups and friends, to stand up for the voters and for the resilience of our city. After all, we, the people, voted them into office in the first place. Is saving tourists and locals 3% on their “bake sale” supplies worth the trade-off of being unprepared for the next wildfire?


The ask:
We expect the council to put the financial stability of the city and the will of the voters ahead of personal interests. Any meddling with the voters’ will at this point would amount to blatant cronyism with favors clearly being doled out to friends. We ask the people to reach out to your councilmembers and let them know “Ojai votes matter,” then “burn one” for the budget. Support the city of Ojai.

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