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Oroville City Council to reconsider marijuana ban

"Where a growing operation is concerned, there'd be impact fees, there's be other taxes that's be applicable to agricultural operations, that's huge," said Howard.

Posted: Jan. 15, 2018 5:43 PM

"It all about money - the city's in very dire financial straights, " said Butte County District Attorney Mike Ramsey.

After voting the idea down last year, Oroville City Council is once again talking about commercial marijuana sales.

"This time there's more momentum ... a lot of jobs would be created," said Mike Howard, a local proponent and former city council member.

Howard says he's been in touch with some big dispensary companies who want to invest in the community.

And the new state law that allows commercial use and sale?

"That opens up opportunity and many cities have been looking into that, and adopted that ... to not only charge sales tax, but also an excise tax," said Howard.

But just because voters statewide approved commercial use, what about Butte County voters who said 'no'?

"The county electorate voted on the Measure A to prevent large grows, it was a 'not in my backyard' mentality. People didn't want that horrible skunk smell right next to them, they were complaining they couldn't open their windows, turn on their air conditioning," said Ramsey.

But Howard says addressing these concerns, upping regulations and security, would mean even more money for Oroville.

"Where a growing operation is concerned, there'd be impact fees, there's be other taxes that's be applicable to agricultural operations, that's huge," said Howard.

Proponents say in cities similar to Oroville, dispensaries can bring in upwards of $20,000 a month in tax revenue. But what about public safety?

An excise tax, known often as a "sin tax" might go toward filling in the financial gaps for public safety departments.

"It builds up the police department, fire department, those services to help keep that situation safe," said Howard.

"The jury is out on this, it's really difficult - there are examples in Oregon, Washington and Colorado. We've heard some horror stories our of Colorado that it's not good for public safety, but we don't know," said Ramsey.

Congressman Doug LaMalfa says he's concerned; just because California voters approved commercial sale and recreational use, the city would still be violating federal drug laws.

"There's a lot of inconsistency in the arguments here. I don't think the amount of taxation that local governments think they might realize is going to offset the harm and the cost to the community, and to the youth especially," said LaMalfa.

LaMalfa says allowing dispensaries in Oroville could also put the city at risk of losing future income from grants and funding.

Oroville City Council will discuss taxation options at Tuesday night's open meeting.

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