Phoenix Mayor proposing hefty tax on marijuana businesses for public safety funding

PHOENIX (KSAZ) -- Should marijuana dispensaries, cultivation sites, retail business locations and public consumption lounges be subjected to a tax to help fund Phoenix Police and Fire Departments?

Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams announced this idea yesterday to the city manager.

Fox 10's Courtney Griffin spoke with a small business owner and customers who say they support public safety, but also believe there is a better way to go about this.

The idea is to tax medical dispensaries to help fund public safety.

"I have no problem with that. Firemen and police don't have a problem showing up to our house when we need help, do they?" said a customer.

Mayor Williams says the police and fire departments are strained and unable to keep up with the public safety needs due to financial constraints.

"I'm very sympathetic and understand there is a deficit, and we need to cover it, and I'm happy to be a part of the solution. I just don't think the way they are doing it is far. We shouldn't carry the whole burden.

But Lilach Power, owner of Giving Tree Wellness, say sit can't be funded by small business owners, and the cost would be outrageous, forcing them to possibly leave the city or turn around and thrown that additional cost on patients.

"We are going to have to roll it on 178,000 patients in the whole state to cover for this. Some cultivation will just leave the city. Patients will go to other cities because it's going to be cheaper," Power said.

In this letter from the mayor to the city manager, there are several options on how the money would be collected. The letter states the occupational license tax in method would cost $50 per square foot for the cultivation and infusion sites and $280 per square foot used for retail or public consumption space.

Another option would be 17 percent of the business gross receives from the previous 12 months or a flat rate tax.

"On the cultivation side, it can get up to almost a $1 million, $980,000 a year. It depends on the size of your cultivation. There's just no way to compete in the market if this is the kind of taxes you need to pay. They're just going to leave. We won't be able to do it," Power said.

The mayor states that as it stands now aside from some fees to the Arizona Department of Health Services, the dispensaries are only asked to pay sales tax on their retail sales activities at 2.3 percent.

The letter also mentions that if there is an emergency at a cultivation or production site, first responders have an increased risk responding due to lack of information on the current layouts, hazardous chemicals and materials because of restricted regulatory inspections that the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act enforces.

"I'm all for helping the community. I have several friends who are firefighters, you know, police officers. So I need as much help as they get get, however, this is a place where people to come from medicine and let's not exploit that. Let's meet somewhere in the middle," said a patient.

We reached out to the mayor's office, but they declined our request to comment.

Phoenix dispensary owners are gathering for an emergency meeting tomorrow to discuss their options.

As for Mayor Williams' idea, it will be presented to the city council on Tuesday and dispensary owners plan to be at that meeting.