Six Reasons to Vote No on Measure A, the “Marijuana Hypocrisy Tax”

COMMENTARY: Alcohol is far more harmful than cannabis. A 10% tax on grapes & wineries would yield far more money for the County. But that will never happen.

Alcohol is far more harmful than cannabis. A 10% tax on grapes & wineries would yield far more money for the County. But that will never happen. Why, then, should we force the emerging cannabis industry into a huge tax and regulatory environment that would penalize local small growers, force many underground, and escalate the unwanted police, prison and probation war on marijuana?

Here are six compelling grassroots  reasons why voters–and their friends and families–should vote AGAINST  Sonoma County’s Measure A, the Marijuana Hypocrisy Tax,  before or on March 7:

  1. 1. Cannabis is less harmful than alcohol and should be treated, regulated and taxed like wine. The unspoken truth is that cannabis will ALREADY  be taxed like alcohol, from the existing 9 to 9.5% sales tax (which fills the coffers of local, county and state government). In addition, legal cannabis businesses, like wineries, will pay real estate, corporate, income and payroll  taxes just like every other normal businesses.  There is no rationale for forcing those in this embryonic, fast growing, jobs creating industry to be singled out and taxed extra.
  2.  Hypocrisy busting time: Imagine a 10% tax on hundreds of millions of grape growers across the County. And a tax on the billion dollar wine industry. This would raise at least ten times the $6 million which Measure A aims to collect. Yet we know that our Supervisors would never even discuss placing such a measure on the ballot. One explanation for this double standard: hypocrisy. 
  3. Protect the civil liberties for ALL of us. The public supports legalization:  about 60% of Sonoma County voters cast their ballots for full legalization last November. We, the People, want Sheriff Dept. SWAT teams to bust down fewer doors and terrorize and imprison fewer of our neighbors, not more of them. 
  4. The public deserves a peace dividend in the war on marijuana, not more war! This tax is intended to increase “public safety”funding  of arcane new regulations This translates into more arrests of non violent purveyors of cannabis, the true victims of the victimless crime of marijuana than before.   Enough already! Growers want cannabis to be treated like grapes and agriculture, subject to civil fines and inspections, not militarized raids and outrageous asset forfeiture laws. The public deserves a peace dividend that we expect to follow the endless escalation of prison, probation and police costs for victimless marijauna related crimes, not more reasons for OUR government  to bust our fellow Americans.
  5. The way this got on the ballot, in a few days without any time for opposition statements , represents sleazy backroom County Supervisor politics at its worse.  When was the last time we saw a measure make it to the ballot without an opposition statement?  The Sonoma County Grower’s Alliance and its members overwhelmingly oppose Measure A but never had time to submit an opposition statement.  This suspicious process alone is sufficient reason to vote against this Marijuana Hypocrisy Tax. 
  6. Taxes like those imposed in Measure A defy the widely shared objective that Sonoma County citizens have to support  locally owned small businesses. Only large cannabis agribusiness corporations will be able to afford the high taxes, accountants and lawyers that it will take to comply with the Marijuana Hypocrisy Tax.  Small local farmers will be driven underground, where their “noncompliance” will lead them into the armored jaws of our criminal injustice system. This is the opposite of what We, the People, voted for last November, or want to see happen next.

The founder and Editor of the Sonoma County Independent, Greenberg is an investigative financial journalist with 35 years of experience with national publications. Greenberg writes a political blog that appears in the Huffington Post In 2015, he won two first prizes from the Greater Bay Journalism Awards for his coverage of the closing of Palm Drive Hospital. In 2014, he won first prize for analysis from Award competition for his coverage of the Monday closings of Sonoma County's libraries. He has been an investigative financial and political journalist for such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Mother Jones, Forbes, New York, Money, The Bohemian, The Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Playboy, Self, Inc., GQ, The New Republic, and Alternet. He is also the author of several well-reviewed books. As a new media innovator who has developed a half dozen interactive web platforms and dozens of content-focused web sites, Greenberg is committed to enhancing responsive government and expanding media democracy. Greenberg is founder of Progressive Source Communications, a Sebastopol-based public interest communications company. In the past, he founded and managed two other online companies, TV1.com, and Gist.com. Greenberg’s political work included serving as Policy Director for the New York City Council’s Select Committee on Lower Manhattan Redevelopment in the years following 9-11. His work resulted in more than $250 million of federal funds being re-directed to needy businesses and constituents in the impacted area. Greenberg has been Vice President of Fenton Communication’s New York office. His work on behalf of non-profit organizations has included communications consulting for Save Darfur, Stonyfield Farm, the ACLU, and the Lakota People’s Law Project. Greenberg holds a B.A. in writing from the State University of New York at Binghamton, and a Masters Degree in Law from Yale Law School, where he graduated with honors in First Amendment Law.
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