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Maybe taxing marijuana to help the homeless — some of whom suffer from drug addiction — isn’t such a good idea after all.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl, who led the charge for a November ballot initiative calling for a marijuana business tax to raise money to combat homelessness, has withdrawn her support for the proposal and is asking that the measure be pulled.

Kuehl said since the board agreed to place the measure on the ballot, homeless services groups came forward voicing uncertainty over using marijuana industry revenue as a funding source. She also pointed to the large number of measures already on the November ballot as a reason to pull the measure.

Kuehl plans to introduce a motion on Tuesday to rescind the marijuana tax measure, which would have placed a tax on gross receipts from pot sales. The board had voted 3-2 earlier this month to place the measure on the November ballot, with supervisors Mark Ridley-Thomas and Michael Antonovich casting the dissenting votes.

Kuehl said she reconsidered her support for the marijuana gross receipts tax measure after homeless services providers, particularly those specializing in addiction recovery, expressed “deep ambivalence about funding services by taxing marijuana.”

“It just didn’t feel right to them,” she said.

Because the marijuana gross receipts tax revenue would be used for a specific purpose — to fund homeless services — the measure requires a two- third approval from voters in November, she said.

Given that this threshold “was going to be a heavy lift,” it was concerning to her that “the community was deeply ambivalent about the tax, and might have trouble being wholeheartedly and unitedly for it.”

“Rather than put it up and have it fail, I decided it would be better to withdraw it,” she said.

Kuehl said if the board does decide to rescind the measure, she anticipates waiting to see if an initiative legalizing recreational marijuana use passes in November. If it does, the board may revisit a tax measure next year when the ballot “will not be so crowded with tax measures,” she said.

The county’s chief executive officer has estimated that $450 million in annual funding will be needed to effectively combat homelessness in the region.

The county had previously considered a millionaire’s tax, a half-percent tax on personal income in excess of $1 million that was projected to raise $243 million per year to combat homelessness.

State legislators who would have had to grant the county the right to levy that tax failed to take the issue up before the summer recess, leaving the measure unable to meet deadlines for the November ballot.

–City News Service

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