The vote was unanimous to kill a proposal that would’ve imposed additional taxes for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivators at the Oct 2nd Phoenix City Council meeting. Mayor Thelda Williams heard backlash from the medical marijuana community as well as concerns from members of the City Council regarding transparency issues.
The proposed tax was said to raise between $40 – $50 million annually for Phoenix’s police and fire departments, AZ Central reports. Medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation locations would have been paying the hefty tax.
The tax on cultivation sites would have been assigned at a specific rate per facility size which could been as much as $1 million.
The Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona proposed the new tax. According to Bryan Jeffries, chief of staff for the mayor and also president of the firefighters union, acknowledged having studied a potential medical marijuana tax for about a year. He indicated that it was due to concerns over public safety in Phoenix.
Something like this would normally go before a subcommittee first, but somehow made its way to the City Council’s discussion agenda without other necessary steps first. Some in the industry called this move an ambush.
Medical marijuana patients and dispensary owners packed the City Council’s chambers urging the committee to kill the proposal. Some wore stickers saying “No New Taxes” and “No Tax on Medicine.”
Councilwoman Debra Stark had an alternative suggestion to continue the topic for 30-days: meet with those in the industry prior to making a decision. Her suggestion was not popular among those packing the space as boos rung loudly.
Joe DeMenna of the Arizona Dispensary Association responded by saying the industry would meet with the council, but under a specific time-frame such as the 30-days mentioned.
Councilman Sal DiCiccio suggested killing the proposal and starting over. DiCiccio suggested that transparent conversations should be held between the council, medical marijuana patients and dispensary owners. He went further to criticize the mayor and city staff for being so secretive about the proposal.
J.P. Holyoak of Arizona Natural Selections dispensaries noted that his businesses would have had to pay as much as $2.9 million if the proposal passed. He said, “I cannot afford it. I will close my doors. This is a job killer. But, beyond being just a job killer, we provide medicine to thousands and thousands of people including my daughter Reese.”
Holyoak was bold and brought his disabled daughter before the council members. He said, “See the face of who you’re going after.” This move appeared to strike a nerve among the council. Shortly afterwards, a unanimous vote to kill the proposal took place.