Measure ‘M’ puts taxpayer dollars at risk

In July, the Lassen County Board of Supervisors chose to put Measure “M” on the November ballot. It asks whether the citizens of Lassen County want to invite the commercial cannabis industry into Lassen County and impose a tax on marijuana. However, because marijuana is illegal at the federal level, I have many concerns about this measure putting your taxpayer dollars — and by extension critical public services — at risk.

As the Treasurer of Lassen County, my primary concern related to taxing commercial cannabis is that there is no legal method to deposit the taxes collected from marijuana proceeds. Until the federal government removes cannabis from the list of controlled substances, the banking system, which the federal government regulates, sees any money collected from marijuana proceeds as illegal. From the federal government’s perspective, anyone who deposits these funds in a bank is committing the crime of money laundering and any federally regulated bank that knowingly accepts these funds is guilty of money laundering as well. My job as your elected Treasurer is to keep the public’s, the school’s, and the community college’s money safe. Knowingly accepting and depositing proceeds from cannabis would make me a money launderer and would put your taxpayer dollars, that are used to provide important public services, at risk.

The risk to the public, schools and community college’s money could come in many forms. It is possible that the federal government could come in and freeze our bank account, which would mean local government agencies, the schools and the college would not have access to their funds.

It may be that US Bank, where the county currently deposits public funds, closes our accounts because we are collecting cannabis taxes. It is unlikely that another commercial bank would open a new account for us because the federal government regulates them all.

Additionally, cannabis taxes may put any federal funds or grants that the county, schools and college receive in jeopardy because they must comply with all federal regulations as a condition of funding agreements. The county depositing cannabis taxes into the same account that is shared with the schools and college means those entities would likely no longer comply with federal regulations.

The job of the treasurer is to ensure the people’s money is safe and to abide by all county ordinances, state and federal laws. If Measure “M” passes, it will put the people’s money at undo risk and put me in a moral conundrum in which I have to decide whether or not I will break federal law. For these reasons, please vote no on Measure “M.”