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MailTribune.com
  • Central Point council eyes pot-tax vote

    City would join Ashland, Gold Hill
  • CENTRAL POINT — The City Council will consider joining the ranks of surrounding cities that have implemented a tax on marijuana sales in hopes of discouraging the industry.
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  • CENTRAL POINT — The City Council will consider joining the ranks of surrounding cities that have implemented a tax on marijuana sales in hopes of discouraging the industry.
    City Administrator Chris Clayton said the council, which will meet Thursday, has no intention of lifting a yearlong moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries before it expires in May 2015. But potential new rules could restrict local governments from implementing taxes or fees on medical and recreational marijuana sales, so the city wants to be prepared.
    The Ashland City Council recently enacted a tax of up to 5 percent on sales of medical marijuana and up to 10 percent on recreational sales.
    In Gold Hill, a 5 percent tax on sales at a medical marijuana dispensary, opened just under a month ago, yielded $1,800 in three weeks.
    Oregon voters are likely to see a marijuana legalization measure on the November ballot. Though medical marijuana dispensaries are already legal under state law, cities were given the power to impose additional regulations.
    Clayton said the Central Point City Council wanted to preempt looming state restrictions that could block the city from collecting taxes on marijuana sales in the future.
    "Our ordinance will be very similar to what Ashland just passed, with a 10 percent tax on marijuana-infused products and 5 percent if someone has a (medical) card," Clayton said.
    "The premise for this ordinance is ballot initiative (petition) 53 in November that contains language that says if it's passed, it will preclude any city or county from invoking a tax after the law is passed. Many cities are taking the angle that if you get something in place now, it won't be preempted."
    Clayton said an existing ordinance, approved only weeks before the moratorium, "will regulate time, manner and place," while the taxes would further deter potential facilities after the moratorium expires.
    "The council has been forthright in their opinion that they're trying to be legal while creating a disincentive for someone trying to set up a dispensary here," said Clayton.
    "By having a tax in place, we're basically making sure that the citizens of Central Point don't end up paying later when we can't go back and implement a tax."
    Clayton said the council will discuss the matter at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 24.
    Mayor Hank Williams said he hoped the measure would discourage marijuana-related businesses from setting up shop in Central Point.
    "It's basically a defensive measure in case the voters pass — legalize — marijuana for recreational use," said the mayor.
    "The ballot measure would prohibit cities from taxing marijuana after it's legal, so we want to get it done now so we would be grandfathered in. We want to discourage marijuana from being in Central Point, but if it does come here, then they have to deal with our rules about time and place for it. And they'd have to pay something on the sales."
    Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com
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