California Cannabis Coalition v City of Upland

I recently sat down with Matt Read, the Policy Director for Sacramento City Council Member Steve Hansen, to discuss a very interesting California Supreme Court case – California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland. As Matt points out in the interview, the case itself was kind of boring. The implications of the decision however, are much more interesting.

Very quickly, the California Supreme Court’s decision in the case essentially ruled that parts of California’s Proposition 218 – specifically, parts related to procedures – did not apply to some initiatives that were ran in the City of Upland by marijuana dispensaries seeking clarification on rules ahead of impending state regulations. This led to other, potentially bigger questions.

Backtracking just a little bit, the most notable impact of Proposition 218 is that it instituted vote thresholds for different types of taxes levied by local governments. General taxes, those used to fund government functions generally, are subject to a 50% + 1 threshold. That’s the same threshold any political candidate needs to win office. Special taxes – taxes directed to a specific project like building new schools or road repairs – which are more commonly used by local governments, are subject to a 2/3 majority vote.

While those thresholds remain the same if a local government were to put a tax measure on the ballot, the decision in Upland potentially allows for citizen-led tax initiatives to be subject to the 50% + 1 threshold, regardless of whether the tax is a general tax or a special tax. What exactly is a citizen-led initiative? That much is unclear, or as Matt put it, “The Court punts on that … question.” You’ll have to listen to our conversation to get a better sense of why that is, and to get a better sense of the numerous other questions that this particular California Supreme Court ruling invites.

2018 was already shaping up to be a very interesting election year, and it appears that the decision in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland will only make this upcoming cycle more interesting.