Pot tax: Wait for the slap-down

If Measure 91 passes, Albany will have to figure out if it can collect a sales tax on marijuana.

If Measure 91 passes, Albany will have to figure out if it can collect a sales tax on marijuana.

Albany and other cities, including Lebanon, now have given voters another reason to support Ballot Measure 91, the legalization and state taxation of recreational marijuana. The cities have done so by enacting local sales taxes of 10 percent on recreational weed sales within their jurisdiction. Now voters may want to approve the state measure just to see their local city councils get slapped down for wanting to tax something that the ballot measure specifically says they must not tax.

The theory behind this potential local money grab is that if cities already have a local tax when a state law forbidding such a tax is passed, then the local tax can stand. Even it that was true in some cases, a very shaky supposition, then it still is obviously untrue in this particular case. Why? Because cities can't very well tax something that under present law is illegal. So they don't have any pre-existing tax on recreational marijuana at all. Their taxes don't take effect until Measure 91 becomes law. So the very law change that would give meaning to their tax maneuver also cancels it at the same time.

Without further debate on this issue, three members of the Albany council, Rich Kellum, Floyd Collins and Bessie Johnson, and tie-breaking Mayor Sharon Konopa voted for the marijuana sales tax on Wednesday night. Ray Kopczynski, Bill Coburn and Dick Olsen voted no.

Konopa says the tax-enacting ordinance can be brought back for another look in November after the state election is over and the legality of local taxes is clearer. If the courts get involved, the legal question will remain unsettled for years. But citizens who can read will know that the council -- and many others around the state -- did something that Measure 91 specifically forbids. So much for a government of laws. (hh)

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