Nora Kistler is a senior media studies major.
The SF Gate reported that, “a tax on soda and other sugared beverages will be on November ballots in Oakland, San Francisco and Albany”. This tax is unnecessary, and will not serve a useful purpose in San Francisco, a city that is already so health-conscious.
According to the Huffington Post, “San Francisco has [also] topped rankings of the happiest, healthiest, and fittest cities in America.” A sugar tax would be more useful in Louisiana, which has the highest adult obesity rate in the country, 36.3%, according to the State of Obesity Organization. A February article from The Louisiana Weekly reported there was a recent proposal for a sugar tax, from former State Representative Ebony Woodruf. With the state struggling financially, it would apply a one percent per ounce tax on high sugar beverages in Louisiana, which could generate $293 million. Or put simply, at three cents per ounce, this tax would cover half of the year’s deficit.
Furthermore, San Francisco is a city which encourages a lifestyle that includes exercise and locally sourced food, which leads me to wonder why the city desires taxing sugary beverages when a majority of residents are already making healthy choices. The city provides a plethora of ways for its residents to stay fit. A recent study conducted by the Examiner found that the proportion of cyclist commuters in San Francisco was 4.4 percent. Nationally, 0.6 percent of workers commute by bike. Since 2000, the percent of people who biked to work in San Francisco increased from 2.0 percent to 3.4 percent, according to 2008-2012 statistics from the American Community Survey. In addition, 9.9 percent of workers in San Francisco walk to work. On top of that, there are 125 miles of bike lanes in the city. With San Franciscans more devoted to their juice cleanses than their soda habits, there is no clear benefit to this tax.
Since San Francisco is not in a struggling financial situation, nor does it carry as high of an obesity rate, the city should really be taxing marijuana. In research conducted by the California Department of Public Health, it was found that between 2004 and 2005, the number of medical marijuana cards issued was 85. Between 2015 and 2016, this number increased to a whopping 3,680. At their peak sales, in 2009/2010, the year in which the possession amount for cannabis was raised, and the penalties for possession of cannabis was lowered, over 12,000 medical cards were sold.
Numerous measures have been proposed on ballots to legalize marijuana in the state of California, and have often lost by close margins. On Feb. 23, 2009, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D) introduced the Marijuana Control, Regulation, and Education Act, a bill that would “remove all penalties under California law for the cultivation, transportation, sale, purchase, possession, and use of marijuana, natural THC and paraphernalia by persons over the age of 21” and “prohibit local and state law enforcement officials from enforcing federal marijuana laws.” The bill would have helped with battling the 2008–2010 California budget crisis by allowing the state to regulate and tax its sale at $50 per ounce. According to Time Magazine, California tax collectors estimate the bill would have raised about $1.3 billion a year in revenue.
If San Francisco is seeking to make a profit, it should place a higher tax on marijuana and make an effort to monitor its profit and consumption. While a soda tax targets a potential health issue, the profit made from such a measure would still struggle to promote healthier beverages. Medical marijuana, however, is a unique product that opens up a more profitable and sustainable market. Frankly, SF is more likely to light up then drink up, so tax the green, not the juice.