Humboldt County Measure S is a marijuana cultivation tax of $1 - $3 per square foot. The cultivation tax may be repealed or amended by the Board of Supervisors in a manner that does not result in an increase in the amount of the tax or broaden the scope of the tax without voter approval.
Since the spring of 2021, wholesale cannabis prices have collapsed and may not recover anytime soon. As a result, Humboldt's cannabis industry is in jeopardy if nothing changes, with rippling outward effects on Humboldt's economy and community at large.
High taxes target legal and regulated farmers, encouraging the unregulated market and discouraging legal cultivation and sales.
Humboldt's Measure S tax is an "entitlement tax" paid by permitted cannabis farmers for the "right to cultivate." No other crop in California is singled out in this manner and subjected to an individual tax by a county.
Measure S was written in 2016 when wholesale prices were triple what they are now. But the tax rate is based on square footage, not market prices, and remains the same even when farmers' incomes dry up.
Every other significant cost facing farmers has remained the same or increased compared with before the market collapse. At $161/pound, the state cultivation tax alone is now at an effective rate of 50% or more and recently increased due to inflation. Likewise, state licensing fees, county staff time fees, and the cost of meeting required approval conditions have remained the same or increased due to inflation through the market collapse.
Like San Francisco and Oakland, other jurisdictions are now looking at tax suspensions and reforms in response to unsustainable market conditions.
The county must take action now, before the following tax payments are due on March 15, 2022.
Suspend the Measure S tax for two years to provide stability to Humboldt farmers in the midst of market collapse.
Forgive the October 2021 tax payment.
Waive the March 2022 payment.
Suspend the tax for an additional year.
Following the two-year suspension, consider a significant reduction in the Measure S tax rate.
Provide larger tax breaks to outdoor farms and farms which are 10,000 square feet or less total.
Levy the tax based on production, either a flat rate per pound sold or as a percentage of gross receipts. Currently, farmers are taxed at a flat rate per square foot regardless of market prices, crop loss, ability to sell products, or the ability of a distributor to pay. Alternatively, if the square footage tax is maintained, establish a process for tax refunds/credits based on crop loss or failure to make a sale.
Establish separate tax brackets for mixed-light 1 and mixed-light 2 cultivation. Currently, all mixed-light cultivation is taxed at the same rate, despite vast differences in energy usage and production capacity.