Article by Julie Weed, Forbes
Former Hawthorne California mayor Chris Brown plays matchmaker between small cities looking for new tax revenue and cannabis companies that want to do business there. With recreational marijuana legalization looming on California’s November ballot, those opportunities are about to increase significantly.
If recreational legalization passes as expected, taxes from pot production and sales could top $1 billion annually. Cities and counties can add their own fees and taxes for business licenses, permits and other business activities to California’s state taxes, and that’s where Dr. Brown, Chief Political Officer of the legal group he works for The Foxx Firm, comes in.
Adelanto California is Dr. Brown’s favorite example of the benefits of partnership between local governments and cannabis companies. The city of 32,000 residents with a 12% unemployment rate was nearly bankrupt in 2014 when local businessman John Woodard Jr. ran for city council “on the M-word.” The M-word was marijuana and Mr. Woodward proposed the city welcome medical marijuana businesses as tax payers and employers. “I saw other cities paying for police, firefighters and city parks with cannabis taxes,” he said.
Mr. Woodward won a seat on the council and the city worked with Brown’s firm to write ordinances that would allow marijuana companies to operate and be charged for background checks, commercial use permits and licenses. Now with more than 30 business licenses granted and a million square feet of cultivation and manufacturing in operation, the city believes they are on track to bring in $10M per year in taxes, a significant number when the city budget is about $12M. The regulations even stipulate that a certain percentage of employees had to be city residents.
Cannabis companies are eager to grow, process, sell and deliver their products in California cities but “a lot of local governments have a lot of red tape to go through to get business done,” said Dr. Brown. As a former elected official, he can explain the process and help businesses work as efficiently and effectively as possible with local governments he said. “I understand exactly how frustrating it can be waiting on a city to pass an ordinance.”