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Marijuana grower Basil McMahon with his crop
Marijuana grower Basil McMahon with his crop in Grass Valley, Calif., on Nov. 12, 2015. Randall Benton The Sacramento Bee file

With the potential for hundreds of millions of dollars in new revenue on the table, California lawmakers are pursuing a 15 percent medical marijuana sales tax this year.

Sen. Mike McGuire, D-Healdsburg, on Wednesday introduced a tax bill that follows long-awaited regulations passed by lawmakers in the final days of the legislative session last September, nearly two decades after voters first legalized medical marijuana.

Annual sales of medical marijuana are estimated at more than $1 billion in California, according to McGuire, meaning that his tax could bring in more than $100 million for the state. It would be divided between the general fund, grants for local oversight agencies, state parks, environmental restoration projects for land damaged by illegal marijuana cultivation, and county drug and alcohol treatment programs.

“Now that there is a long overdue regulatory framework put into place,,” McGuire said in a statement, “it’s time to help fund the areas that are most affected by the cultivation – those communities that have long been paying the price of the negative effects of cultivation brought on by the ‘bad actors’ who destroy the environment and bring in crime.”

The 15-percent tax mirrors what proponents of a leading initiative to legalize recreational pot have included in their November measure.

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McGuire’s bill would need a two-thirds vote in the Legislature, which will require at least some Republicans, who are usually unwilling to support tax increases. However, many of them joined with Democrats to pass the medical marijuana regulations last year.

Alexei Koseff: 916-321-5236, @akoseff


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