Albany pot tax: Are they serious?

The Albany council will review a marijuana tax proposal Monday. Four members are shown with the city manager and attorney in this photo from May.

The Albany council will review a marijuana tax proposal Monday. Four members are shown with the city manager and attorney in this photo from May.

What word comes to mind if a governing body goes out of its way to thwart the voters' intent? Devious? Underhanded? Or just obtuse? We're talking here about the interest by some members of the Albany City Council in slapping a 10 percent city sales tax on recreational marijuana in case Oregon voters approve Ballot Measure 91 on Nov. 4.

At a recent meeting, the council majority asked for such a tax proposal to be prepared. On Monday (Oct. 6, 4 p.m., City Hall),  the council is scheduled to review the draft of a six-page ordinance that would attempt to impose the city tax in case recreational marijuana becomes legal. Oregon Ballot Measure 91 would make it legal and would authorize the Liquor Control Commission to set up a system of regulating and taxing its sale and distribution.

The ballot measure also says this, in Section 42: "No county or city of this state shall impose any fee or tax, including occupation taxes, privilege taxes and inspection fees in connection with the purchase, sale, production, processing, transportation and delivery of marijuana items."

If you asked me, I would say the measure clearly bans any local marijuana taxes. So what is the Albany council trying to pull? There seems to be a thought that if the city already has such a tax if and when Measure 91 passes and becomes law, any existing city tax would be allowed to continue under some kind of grandfather clause. This sounds like nonsense. The ballot measure contains no grandfather clause when it specifically bans local taxes. It is very clear on the subject, and city or county taxes are not allowed, period.

Measure 91 may not pass, and if it doesn't the city's tax idea will be moot. But if it does pass and the council insists on taxing pot, the city will be in open violation of a state law the voters have just passed. This needless embarrassment will be avoided if the council on Monday drops this idea as ill considered, an insult to voters, and just plain bad. (hh)

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