Portland, other cities rush to tax legal pot

Measure 91 would give the state sole authority to tax marijuana

Marijuana is lit in a pipe (KOIN 6 News, file)
Marijuana is lit in a pipe (KOIN 6 News, file)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Even before Portland’s revenue director made his presentation, Mayor Charlie Hales went on the record with a recommendation the city should tax marijuana, if it becomes legal.

Should Portland tax legal pot? And what should the tax rate be? “With those two questions in the air, my answer, by the way, is that we should indeed tax marijuana,” Hales said.

Revenue Director Thomas Lannom suggests a 10% tax on recreational pot and 5% on medical marijuana.

“We believe the city will have some expenses related to this measure that likely would exceed the revenues that were projected in Measure 91, so we’re recommending a local tax,” Lannom told the Portland City Council.

The state of Oregon estimates legal weed could raise between $17 million and $40 million a year.

Lannom said he’ll an estimate next week on how much a Portland tax could raise for the city.

“I believe retail sales would be legal on July 1 of 2016,” he said.

If Portland approves a tax on legal pot, they will join other Oregon cities like Hillsboro, Forest Grove, Lake Oswego, Wilsonville, Sandy and Ashland. Those cities are positioning to challenge Measure 91, which — if passed — grants exclusive authority to the state for pot taxation.

“No county or city shall impose any fee or tax in connection with the purchase, sale, production, processing, transportation and delivery of marijuana,” Measure 91 reads, in part.

Backers of Measure 91 say it’s meant to minimize and compete with the illegal market, and additional taxes would simply derail that.

Regardless, Portland City Hall drafted their ordinance Tuesday.

The ordinance will have to go through a first reading next week, and then approval some time a week later.

KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.

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