by Photo courtesy of Unsplash

A proposal to impose a tax on medical and recreational cannabis businesses operating in San Diego County's unincorporated areas to raise money for government services such as health care, fire safety and parks earned significant early support tonight.

Measure A took an early 59.1%-40.9% lead, according to the results of early balloting released by the county Registrar of Voters.

If passed, the measure will impose tax rates of 6% for retail outlets, 3% for distribution, 2% for testing, 3% — or $10, which can be adjusted for inflation — per canopy square foot for cultivation, and 4% for other businesses.

The county tax would not apply in cities that already impose a tax on marijuana businesses. According to county officials, if Measure A passes on a simple majority vote, it would generate anywhere from $3 million to $5.5 million in the general fund to pay for services and infrastructure.

Measure A has support from county Supervisors Nathan Fletcher, Terra Lawson-Remer and Nora Vargas — all Democrats. The San Diego County Democratic Party is also supporting it.

During a June 15 presentation on the ballot issue, Fletcher said the county is "at another step in our progress towards establishing the safe, regulated and legal cannabis market in the unincorporated areas and I think this is a worthy endeavor.''

Former county Supervisor Dianne Jacob, former La Mesa Councilman Barry Jantz, the San Diego County Taxpayers Association and Republican Party of San Diego oppose the measure.

Measure A is problematic because "the unincorporated part of the county gets taxed, but there's no guarantee that the money is used for the general obligations created in the unincorporated part of the county, and that's unfair,'' Haney Hong, taxpayers association president and CEO, told NBC7.

Since California voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2016, the county Board of Supervisors has moved from various bans toward a proposed cannabis "equity policy.'' Fletcher and Vargas say the proposal will help eliminate the black market, and address how anti-drug policies impact low- income and minority communities.

When it goes before the board next summer, the cannabis equity proposal will be in the form of an ordinance.

Currently, five marijuana operations are allowed to operate in San Diego County — three in Ramona and one each in unincorporated areas bordering El Cajon and Escondido.

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