L.A. County Commercial Cannabis Tax Measure is Here

L.A. County commercial cannabis is finally coming in 2023. We covered the breaking news about L.A. County commercial cannabis regulations here. This is a huge deal, because L.A. County is the biggest county in the U.S. with over 9 million residents.

L.A. County plans to allow the following businesses in in its borders in 2023: 25 retail, 25 delivery, 10 cultivation (indoor or mixed light only), 10 distribution, and 10 testing licenses. Priority goes to equity applicants.

The exact licensing/permitting process has yet to be revealed. We can really only tell what the general “framework” for it is. Nonetheless, the local approval process should be in place by 2023. For now though, we’re getting a look at the proposed L.A. County Commercial Cannabis tax measure.

L.A. County Commercial Cannabis Tax

The County is putting a ballot measure before voters regarding how commercial cannabis businesses in the unincorporated parts of the County should be taxed. A copy of the measure and ordinance can be found here.

On November 8th of this year, County residents will make the call on whether to apply a general tax to cannabis businesses. That general tax will go to the County’s general fund, and will be earmarked for a variety of County needs and programs. One of them is the County’s cannabis equity program administered through the Office of Cannabis Management.

What’s in the measure

If the measure is approved by voters, L.A. County commercial cannabis businesses would be taxed at the following rates starting July 2023:

Retail: 4% of gross receipts
Manufacturing:  3% of gross receipts
Distribution: 3% of gross receipts
Testing: 1% of gross receipts
Cultivation: $7/sf of canopy (indoor artificial light)
$4/sf of canopy (mixed light)
$4/sf of canopy (outdoor)
$2/sf of canopy space (nursery)

Any other type of Cannabis Business:  4% of gross receipts

Adjustments to rates

The County proclaimed in its media release that “[t]hese are some of the lowest rates in the State, and they are designed to better promote the viability of the legal cannabis businesses.” I’m not so sure about that, given the recent changes to state law around cannabis tax reform. In any event, the measure also allows the county “to decrease or increase the tax rates up to the following maximum tax rates on cannabis businesses in the unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County after July 1, 2026:

Retail: 6% of gross receipts
Manufacturing:  4% of gross receipts
Distribution: 3% of gross receipts
Testing: 2% of gross receipts
Cultivation: $10/sf of canopy (indoor artificial light)
$7/sf of canopy (mixed light)
$4/sf of canopy (outdoor)
$2/sf of canopy space (nursery)

Any other type of Cannabis Business:  4% of gross receipts

The County notes that, regarding the max increases, the tax rates for cultivation will be adjusted annually to reflect inflation in 2027.

Who pays the tax

A nice perk of the County tax is that it only applies to cannabis businesses located within unincorporated areas of the County. And the tax also applies to illegal operators as a way to combat the illegal market. This assumes though that the County will be able to find and catch these operators in the first place.

We’ll be sure to keep you up to date on the County’s licensing/permitting regulations as they roll out and certainly on whether this tax measure passes in November.

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