Marijuana Tax Revenue for the Homeless of Los Angeles


Originally written by Duke London for

Los Angeles has an overwhelming homeless problem, as anyone who has spent time in the city can clearly see. Expansive “tent cities” sprawl down major streets and small alleyways creating public health issues and a serious safety hazard. According to the Los Angeles Housing Service’s most recent count, there are roughly 47,000 people throughout all of L.A. County living on the streets.

There has been a concentrated effort to alleviate the problem this year, with the county budgeting $100 million for new homeless initiatives. Unfortunately, there’s no way to fund those initiatives, which could provide funding for housing and health services, beyond the inaugural year.

Advocates for the homeless community have been urging Los Angeles officials to find an alternative source of revenue, and if possible, find one quickly that could be readied in time for the November ballot.

County officials considered a number of different options, including a high-income tax on the country’s richest residents and a quarter-cent sales tax hike. The county found it didn’t have the legal right to increase income taxes, and they couldn’t garner enough of the necessary support from the Board of Supervisors to implement the sales tax increase.

Left without any other viable options, the county looked to a source they probably should have considered long ago — marijuana.

In a 3-2 vote on Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors threw their support behind a ballot measure that will ask voters to decide whether to use taxes from marijuana business revenue to facilitate housing and much-needed health services to LA’s homeless community.

The Bill proposes a 10% tax on a marijuana business’ gross sales revenue from grow operations and any point of distribution for the plant or its related products. Currently, the initiative would only apply to the medical marijuana industry, but includes language to include tax revenue from the recreational industry should Proposition 64 get voted through on the same November ballot.

If approved by California voters, the new tax would drum up an estimated $130 million annually to fund subsidized rent on long-term housing, emergency housing, access to mental health professionals, and substance abuse treatment. The ultimate goal of these initiatives is to help L.A.’s homeless population get off the streets and resume some semblance of a normal way of life. Of course, these projections rely largely on California voting in the affirmative for Prop 64, which could grow the tax revenue collected from marijuana sales exponentially within the Golden State.

This movement to use marijuana tax revenue to help restore hope for the homeless community began in Aurora, Colorado back in May. City officials made the groundbreaking decision to divert 1/3 of their weed windfall to the growing homeless dilemma in the Aurora community. From our article on the Aurora homeless tax:
The city voted to divert $1.5 million of their marijuana tax income per year to various homeless outreach causes for a total of three years. By 2019, Aurora will have spent $4.5 million to ease the struggles of their homeless population. The following bullet points lay out how the city will use the first $1.5 million:

  • The Colfax Community Network, an advocacy group that provides support, education, and other services to families that are forced to live in the low-income transient housing along Colfax Avenue, will receive $220,000.
  • Two full-time employees will be hired for Comitis Crisis Center, costing $91,000. The Aurora homeless shelter has served veterans, runaway youth, and families for over 44 years.
  • Up to $90,000 is being set aside to purchase two vans. One will go to Comitis while the other will call the Aurora Mental Health Center home. The vans will be used to pick up and transport homeless individuals and families, especially those occupying the Colfax and Havana areas of the city.
  • A “Landlord Recruiter” will transition from half-time to full-time at a cost of $45,000. The position’s main objective will be to convince Aurora area landlords to rent to recovering homeless people and their families, greatly aiding their reestablishment into society. This person will find local vacancies and try to place as many of the homeless as he or she can.
  • The remaining funds are unassigned as of yet, but the city is considering building a “day center” where people in need could go to learn, get support, and nourishment. The potential services include, but are not limited to, showers and other hygiene-related maintenance, health services, education, and a safe location to inhabit.

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