A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Albany pot tax: Are they serious?

Written October 4th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
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)

9 responses to “Albany pot tax: Are they serious?”

  1. Rhea Graham says:

    How about if they quit wasting time on stuff like that and get busy finding some money to repair the streets in Albany. You KNOW the “pot tax” wouldn’t go for “pot holes” for pity sake – I’m sure it’s another promenade we’re looking for.

  2. Jim Engel says:

    Mr Hering, it comes as no surprise this council would pass the tax regardless. This is the same council that on the mere “opinion” of our city attorney voted to not enact a lawfully voter passed amendment. Seems history may have to repeat itself as the council has failed to heed the lesson a long ago king of England learned when we revolted against excessive taxation! JE

  3. Rich Kellum says:

    Hasso, you might wait until we do something before you take us to task for what might happen, we have not even talked about this at council yet…

    • Hasso Hering says:

      Well, why is this coming up? As I recall, the city manager brought it up and asked whether the council wanted to consider something like this because Ashland had done something like it. The city attorney said he doubted whether such a tax could be “grandfathered” if M91 passes, and yet the council majority seemingly asked the attorney to draft something and bring it back. Seems like a waste of time to me. Hence the editorial. (hh)

    • James Carrick says:

      Councilor Kellum, you’re being taken to task for considering such lunacy. The optics of this idea are very bad. It makes the city look very greedy when they want to tax a substance before it even becomes legal (assuming it does, which is no certainty).

      This council never met a tax it didn’t like. We thought maybe you were different, Mr. Kellum….but perhaps because you oppose marijuana legalization…..you look no better than the rest of the council on this.

      To paraphrase your own point: “you might wait until the substance becomes legal before you take us to the “cleaners” with a tax that might happen. ”

      This council never ceases to amaze me. Absolutely TONE DEAF!

    • Greg Bechtel says:

      Mr. Kellum and other city councilors considering this lunacy: You, Mr. Kellum, with Ms. Johnson, fought tooth and nail to prevent medical marijuana in Albany, even going so far as to walk out during public testimony. Now that recreational use may be on the horizon, of course, here comes the tax and spenders once a whiff of money hits their nose! Not this time, I’m afraid, because the initiative up for election, as Mr. Hering points out, has pre-empted greedy city bodies. So what the city is pre-posing is a tax on the ILLEGAL SALE of, as of yet, an ILLEGAL substance. The sale of marijuana is still illegal in the state of Oregon without a state license, and, as far as I know, you can’t tax illegal sales. If the city is intending to pass a tax on an illegal activity in the hopes it will someday become legal so they can profit, I’d suggest they add prostitution to this measure. Why not “grand-father” in a prostitution tax, as, someday, it may become legal. Is that the best wisdom our elected leaders can come up with? Legal medical dispensaries already pay a yearly due (still have mine in my wallet since April, still trying to pay my city fee, still need the city to make the process, I’ll ask again tonight). We at AHS have a lot of respect for Mr. Kopczynski, Mr. Olsen, Mr. Coburn, and of course, the Mayor. We are confident this tax-it-before-it-becomes-legal-and-hope-it-becomes-legal mentality will not survive tonight’s discussion. It’s just silly.

  4. Sarah Robertson says:

    Hasso, the Eugene and Speingfirld City Councils are trying to pass similar measures at our end of the valley. Lance, who has been following this issue more closely than me, says they are likely doing this so they can claim that home rule applies – their pre-existing tax laws would supersede the pot law. I suspect multiple lawsuits are in Oregon’s future…

  5. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    Another good reason why a local initiative should be launched to add to the city charter a requirement that voter approval be obtained for every tax and fee imposed by the council.

  6. Hasso Hering says:

    Patrick Lair commented via Facebook: “City of Prineville and Crook County want to do the same thing. They’re hoping to deter anyone from opening a pot store rather than collect revenue.”

    Also on Facebook, Dick Running said: “This is really, really stupid. If they do pass this, why not carry this further and put the same tax on liquor, beer, wine, and cigarettes. This is a total waste of time for them!!”


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