Could legal marijuana make L.A.’s homeless crisis even worse?

The Los Angeles Times
by Joel Warner

Faced with an intractable and growing homeless crisis, two weeks ago, the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors made a bold and largely unprecedented move: It approved a November ballot measure that would impose a 10% tax on gross receipts of medical marijuana as well as recreational marijuana businesses, if statewide legalization passes at the polls, to help fund the estimated $450 million a year the county needs for homeless housing and services.

It didn’t take long for the measure to face criticism. The Los Angeles Times’ editorial board worried that the levy, combined with other taxes imposed on recreational marijuana, “could push up the price of pot so much that customers and suppliers return to the black market” — defeating the purpose of legalization in the first place.

But there’s also a philosophical question to ponder: Cigarette “sin taxes” usually go to anti-smoking efforts. Casino taxes fund gambling-addiction programs. Why should a similar tax on cannabis go to homeless services? What does marijuana have to do with homelessness in the first place?

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