A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

City pot tax: So what do voters know?

Written October 20th, 2014 by Hasso Hering
Fromleft: Mayor Konopa and Councilors Collins, Kopcynski and Olsen in a file shot from last spring.

On opposite sides of pot tax idea: Mayor Konopa and Councilors Collins, Olsen, Kopczynski and Coburn in a file shot from last spring.

Is there something in Oregon’s plentiful water that is making city councils — including four members of  Albany’s — want to seem tone deaf, or greedy, or contemptuous of voters, or any combination thereof?

Several cities around the state have proposed slapping a city sales tax on recreational marijuana in case voters legalize the weed in the general election by passing Ballot Measure 91. This is based on a belief — not shared by competent lawyers or common-sense citizens — that the marijuana initiative on the ballot does not mean what it says. What it says is that city and county taxes or fees on marijuana production or sales would not be allowed.

The cities seem to believe that, based on some notion of “home rule” for cities, they could exempt themselves from this flat prohibition against local pot taxes if they rush their tax ordinances into law before Nov. 4, Election Day. This is the case with the majority of the Albany council.

On Monday, Councilman Ray Kopczinsky proposed that an ordinance for a 10 percent Albany sales tax on recreational marijuana be removed from the agenda of the council’s Wednesday (Oct. 22) meeting. Councilors Bill Coburn and Dick Olsen voted with him to drop this sales tax. But Floyd Collins, Bessie Johnson and Rich Kellum, along with Mayor Sharon Konopa breaking the 3-3 tie, voted to keep the tax idea alive and on the agenda. Collins reasoned that if the initiative passes, and if nearby cities have a marijuana tax in addition to the state tax and Albay doesn’t, Albany would become Huib City for the pot trade, which nobody presumably wants.

It’s not clear whether the initiative will pass. But if it does, it is clear that local taxes will not be allowed unless the courts completely ignore the plain letter of the law. (The home rule argument is too weak to believe. Even cities with home-rule charters don’t usually get away with flouting state laws that specifically do NOT make exceptions for cities.)

The result of all this agitation for a sales tax on a commodity in case that commodity becomes legal: Councils that enact or pursue such a tax invite the obvious conclusion: That they don’t give a damn what the voters decide. (hh)

9 responses to “City pot tax: So what do voters know?”

  1. Jim Engel says:

    Mr Hering, you’ve just now come to that conclusion….”they don’t give a damn what voters decide..”? It’s plain as day to me & other voters. Has been for years especially with these extravagant CARA projects. Like spending up to $90K on the round-about decoration plan. That money could have been paid to that one land owners increased price to then buy the land around the present Albany PD & keep it sited where it belongs!

    The City darlings – Albany Fire Dept, have been allowed to buy up land around their location. Some of it expensive commercial land. That’s so they can stay put. So why is APD treated as a bastard child & sent way out s/w??!! JE

  2. tom cordier says:

    Typical confusion of priorities. Focused on the wrong stuff. When will the Council deal with a failed sewage treatment plant —and get it fixed so costs of operation can be reduced.
    Get back to essentials

  3. Rich Kellum says:

    “That they don’t give a damn what the voters decide. ”

    Let’s see if I understand this correctly, the people of Albany, and the rest of Linn county have voted in the past that we do not want marijuana in our city/county by vast margins. two to one, so now because the drug culture wants this in some other places we should treat the felony that is drug use in this case with kid gloves……….

    Hasso, the same people who voted 2 to 1 against Marijuana also voted me into office….. Others may be in favor of a drug culture, I am not. If my constituents do not like what I am doing then they should vote me out of office… Just like they should vote their feelings when it comes to Olsen and Kopczinski’s actions…

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      I wholeheartedly concur Rich. Please do vote and be a lemming with other communities who are going to cause more irreparable harm by trying to continue the totally failed drug policies of the past. I have no qualms whatsoever in trying to derail this ordinance on behalf of the citizens of Albany.

    • James Carrick says:

      Rich, you would have us believe you don’t want anything to do with marijuana, and that’s just fine by me…..except now you want to tax it?

      I thought you were opposed to marijuana …..UNLESS WE CAN TAX IT? Do I understand your position correctly?

  4. Bob Woods says:

    This is all nonsense all around.

    Pot is currently available in every nook and cranny of the state. It is not new. No place is going to be a “hub”.

    Alcohol gets taxed and the city gets a small slice through state shared revenues, even when the biggest problems from alcohol abuse are local.

    I understand why the council would like some revenue to help cover the existing costs much less some new costs (which I doubt will appear).. After all, you have Cordier and the other extremists opposing government revenue at every turn, trying to get the country back to 1929.

    Hasso is probably right that state preemption will occur. Even if it doesn’t, the city might not get much. If it becomes legal, and the legal price is higher than the black market price, the black market will probably still get the biggest share, and city revenue will be slight.

    It’s Shakespearean: “Tis much ado about nothing”

    • Hasso Hering says:

      For the record, I think it is unwarranted to apply a term like “extremist” to Albany residents whose only offense is that they disagree with the city government’s spending priorities and would like to reduce the cost of government. (hh)

    • James Carrick says:


      Mr. Cordier, Mr Shadle, and others including me are not extremists for disagreeing with your socialistic agenda. That we reject your politics does not make us “extreme.”

      Speaking for myself, I consider your positions as extreme. Extremely WRONG!

      Kudos to HH for pointing this out. I STRONGLY second that thought.

  5. Cyric Crowley says:

    So far the argument is basically the city sees a potential source of revenue that will be closed off with the approval of measure 91 due to section 42 The state has exclusive right to tax marijuana. So the city is trying to preemptively impose a tax that if measure 91 passes will indeed go directly against what the voters voted in.

    I think there’s an interesting section in measure 91 that is being totally overlooked. Section 58 reads “Section 58. Marijuana laws supersede and repeal inconsistent charters and ordinances. Sections 3 to 70 of this act, designed to operate uniformly throughout the state, shall be paramount and superior to and shall full replace and supersede any and all municipal charter enactments or local ordinances inconsistent with it. Such charters and ordinances hereby are repealed.

    So my question is What are we doing? Are we voting in a tax on a product that can not yet be brought to market and the very act that allows us to bring the product to market also repeals the tax? Kinda seems like we’re just spinning our wheels here and not really going anywhere.


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