Coalinga voters to decide if city can tax legal marijuana sales

COALINGA, Calif. (KFSN) -- Voters in Coalinga will decide if they want to cash in on the expected boom in marijuana sales. Their city council has already approved allowing a major marijuana growing and processing operation but it's up to the voters to decide if they want to tax it.

Marijuana has already given the city of Coalinga a financial boost. The city got out of debt by selling the abandoned Claremont Custody Center for $4 million to a company called Ocean Grown Extracts which plans to grow plants and process them into a cannabis oil, for medical marijuana patients. City council members approved the deal and council member Nathan Vosberg said it will help the city.

"We've been given figures of one to $2 million a year in taxes," he explained.

Vosberg said the tax on marijuana will alleviate the city's nearly $1 million a year budget shortage.

"We are still negative $800,000 in the hole from services that we generally provide now," Vosberg said. "A lot of people think we are understaffed on those services."

The processing plant is also projected to add at least a hundred jobs but the issue has divided this city of 13,000. Bob Miller is among those opposed to the growing and the tax.

"I was raised not to do drugs and at school, they teach them not to use drugs," he said. "And then they turn around and legalize it so they can make money off it, it doesn't do good.

The school board has voted to oppose the measure, and Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims tried for months to persuade the city not to become hooked on marijuana money. Here's what she said last March.

"I think they are looking at this as a quick fix, and the problem with that is they won't be able to stop because they will be so addicted to this revenue," Mims said.

The city council has already approved allowing marijuana to be grown commercially in the city limits. The voters will be asked to approve allowing the city to put a tax on the marijuana grown here. If they refuse it will still be grown but the city won't see the financial benefit.
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