On November 8, 2016, California voters opted to legalize cannabis for recreational use through Proposition 64. Proposition 64, known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) legalizes and regulates recreational cannabis in the state of California. Proposition 64 will also add state taxes for licensed dispensaries and cannabis cultivators.
15% Medical Marijuana Tax
In 2018, all retail sales of cannabis will be subject to a 15% marijuana excise tax. Although the purchaser of the cannabis or cannabis product technically owes the tax, the seller will actually be obligated to collect the tax, as well as, any other sales and use taxes that apply in the state of California. However, there is one exception that makes businesses and customers exempt from this excise tax. That is, if the individual purchasing the medical cannabis or medical cannabis product provides a state-issued Medical Marijuana Identification Card.
Until now, qualified patients and caregivers have not been required to register as medical marijuana patients with the state. However Proposition 64 will require that these individuals obtain the identification cards if they want to be exempted from the excise tax.
Cultivation Tax for Cultivators
In 2018, all licensed cannabis cultivators, excluding those patients and caregivers who cultivate cannabis for personal use, will be required to pay a cultivation tax on all marijuana that is harvested to be sold on the commercial market per the Compassionate Use Act. The tax will be assessed at the rates of $2.75 per ounce of leaves and $9.25 per ounce of flowers.
Local Taxes for Licensed Cannabis Businesses
The Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) and Proposition 64 will enable California cities and counties to impose local taxes on licensed marijuana businesses. Several municipalities opted to include their own local tax measures on the recreational marijuana ballot for November 8.
In certain Northern California counties, including Calaveras County, Humboldt County, Lake County, and Monterey County, the cultivator taxes will be based on the grow's total square footage. Mendocino County has opted to place two tax measures on the ballot. These measures are from the County's Board of Supervisors and local marijuana advocates. They both suggest a 2.5% tax based on the gross sales of medical marijuana and the latter having a higher 5% tax on recreational sales of cannabis.
In Southern California, a San Diego tax measure proposal looks to tax dispensaries at a rate of 5% that will rise over time to 8% in 2019. However, a Santa Barbara tax measure looks to tax cannabis businesses at a 20% tax rate. Several Southern California towns have already began taxing cannabis businesses. Coachella is set to vote on a tax measure that will add quarterly taxes of up to 6% for gross sales and 15% per square foot.