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Oaksterdam votes today on pot tax

ganjaVoting ends today in Oakland, Calif. on a measure to create a new business category, for the first time officially recognizing medical marijuana dispensaries as a business class of their own.

The measure would also impose a 1.8% business tax as a percentage of sales. Heretofore, these shops were licensed as general retail, paying 1.2%. If, as expected, this measure is approved by this mail-in only election, it would add an estimated $294,000 to the city coffers.

California dispensaries already collect a 7.25% state sales tax as well as local sales taxes.

Nonetheless, the state is considering full legalization, which is expected to increase sales tax revenue (due to increased sales) and allow it to add an excise tax like that added to alcohol sales. Bill AB 390, which would legalize pot, was introduced early this year. It would impose an additional $50 per ounce tax on weed in addition to the sales tax.

Proponents of legalization can be expected to use California's initiatives to push for nationwide legalization of weed. Many states struggling to balance their budgets could be tempted by the revenue pot-ential. Those states are also faced with the need to reduce prison populations to save money, and "chronic" offenders could well be among those set free.

Oakland is home to Oaksterdam, an area where marijuana laws are virtually unenforced. The name is an homage to the neighborhood of Hamsterdam in "The Wire," an area where drug sales were made unofficially legal on one short stretch of street by a police chief attempting to save West-side neighborhoods in Baltimore.

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