A California lawmaker is proposing to require all marijuana growers and sellers to be licensed by the state as a way to increase sales tax revenue.
Democratic state Sen. Ron Calderon said Wednesday he plans to introduce a bill requiring all legal and illegal marijuana businesses to register with the Board of Equalization, the state agency that collects sales tax.
Supporters say the measure is intended mainly to provide a system of regulation for medical marijuana dispensaries. Such dispensaries already are required to pay sales tax like other businesses, but board vice chair Jerome Horton says many don't comply.
"There is a clear indication that many dispensaries are intentionally evading their taxes, distributing illegal products and may be laundering illegally acquired money," Horton said in a statement.
Licensees would have to pay a fee, prepay part of the sales tax and pay an excise tax similar to manufacturers, distributors and retailers of tobacco products in the state.
Calderon spokesman Rocky Rushing said the lawmaker estimates full compliance from legal medical marijuana sellers could generate $168 million in revenue.
The bill would not legalize marijuana beyond current state law. However, marijuana advocates say they have enough signatures for another peoposal to make it to the November 2010 ballot that would decriminalize pot possession in small amounts for adults.
The Board of Equalization estimates that $1.3 billion worth of marijuana is sold legally in the state every year but only $8 million in sales tax are collected.