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California Measures Taxing Medical Marijuana Win Big At Ballot Box

SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) - Californians are eager to tax medical marijuana, but they want limits on who can grow it and sell it.

That was the message from Tuesday's voting, as backers of nearly two dozen local medical marijuana-related ballot questions tallied the votes.

Measures to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Encinitas and La Mesa, both in San Diego County, failed. Voters also rejected bids in four rural counties - Butte, Lake, Nevada and Shasta - to loosen cultivation rules for medical marijuana and favored more restrictive, city-backed regulations on marijuana dispensaries in Orange County's Santa Ana.

At the same time, however, voters overwhelmingly approved local measures to tax the drug.

In Riverside County, Cathedral City voted to enact a 15 percent sales tax on medical marijuana while voters in the resort town of Desert Hot Springs approved a 10 percent tax on sales, plus a tax on medical marijuana cultivation of $25 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet, and $10 per square foot thereafter.

Santa Cruz city and county also approved a retail tax, and a 6 percent added sales tax will take effect in Shasta Lake City.

The results painted the picture of a state that is still evolving in how it thinks about marijuana even as supporters - emboldened by successes Tuesday in Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C. - prepared to place a measure to legalize recreational marijuana on California's 2016 ballot.

An exit poll for The Associated Press and television networks showed 54 percent of California voters in Tuesday's election think marijuana use should be legal.

Supporters said the local ballot returns show Californians accept medical marijuana but want stronger regulation, something those in favor of legalizing the drug also want, said Ellen Komp, deputy director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

"We'll figure out what Californians want and try to craft something that will please as many people as we can as well as establish the rights that we think marijuana users and growers ought to have," Komp said.

"I don't know if local measures are necessarily an auger of what will happen at the state level."

Opponents to legalization saw a silver lining in the local results.

"I'm encouraged when cities completely reject the idea of marijuana dispensaries because they're recognizing it's just drug dealing behind glass doors and a green cross," said Scott Chipman, the Southern California co-chair of Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana. "Legalization is not inevitable if we have the proper education."

The drug is already legal for people 21 and older in Colorado and Washington, thanks to ballot measures voted on in 2012.


Copyright 2014 The Associated Press.

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