Last week, I noticed that Pacific Grove has a measure on the November ballot to impose a sales tax on revenue earned by marijuana dealers. I went to the Pagrovia Facebook site to ask if anyone was writing a ballot argument against it.

A Takeaway on Ballot Arguments: In California, when you get your sample ballot in the mail in September, it’s pretty thick because every proposition usually has someone or a few people arguing for or against it. When I moved from Canada to California in September 1972, and a fellow Ph.D. Students brought his thick set of ballot arguments to UCLA, I thought it was one of the weirdest things I’d ever seen. Back then I thought Canada was more socialist than the US. I still do. That’s why I’m surprised that different levels of California governments use tax dollars to subsidize the promotion of certain viewpoints.

Back to the issue. A man on the Pagrovia site replied that he might be willing to sign if I did the hard work of writing. What makes this offer particularly attractive to me is that he and I have tangled before the Pacific Grove City Council. I am an avid pickle ball player that the city government wants to allow some of our tennis courts to be used for pickle ball. He lives in the court, can’t stand the noise and opposes giving us permission.

A few months ago on the Pagrovia site, I said something nice about him and he reported it in his local newspaper without mentioning my name. I always like to interact with former political opponents and so this offer from him intrigued me.

I took his place by writing arguments. He answered the door and we had a nice conversation. He quickly realized that he thought I was writing an argument against a different measure, namely against measurement permission Marijuana sales in Pacific Grove. So he was not interested in signing. He noted, however, that the same people were probably behind both systems. Some people wanted to allow the sale of marijuana, and they realized that the way to sweeten the deal was to tell Pacific Grove voters that sales revenue would increase the city government’s budget. The city government is always trying to find ways to extract more money from us.

Why not combine them into one measure? Probably because there is sometimes a rule against including different items in a proposal.

That made me reconsider. On the one hand I wanted the government to give permission for the sale. (I didn’t know they weren’t allowed; I’m not usually in that market.) On the other hand, I didn’t want a discriminatory tax. I noted in my ballot argument that the proposed 6 percent tax on gross revenue is not small, but huge. I linked to this 2018 post by AEI economist Mark Perry. But what if my ballot argument sways people against the tax? And Against sales permits?

It was a dilemma. I had very little time to think it through. The deadline was noon the next day. I let the deadline pass and didn’t submit the argument, even though a friend of mine in California, who has successfully written ballot arguments to fight several tax measures, thought it was really good.

fOr for those of you who agree with me that sales should be allowed and there should not be a gross receipts tax that discriminates against sellers, did I make the right call?

Another aside: the funny ending to my conversation with a pickleball opponent. The big thing that divided us was not marijuana, but pickleball, he said with a wink. I smiled and said, “Yes, but in a sense we both win. We can play on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and you get peace and quiet the rest of the time.”

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