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Rogue River council considers marijuana tax

ROGUE RIVER — The city may impose a 5 to 10 percent tax on sales of marijuana — if a dispensary ever opens here.

Rogue River has two clinics — the Herbal Resources Center and Herbal Pain Management Resource — that help people apply for medical marijuana cards from the state, but they're not permitted to sell cannabis.

The same is true for any other sale of marijuana under a moratorium imposed by the City Council and effective until May.

But the city is looking ahead to state Measure 91 — which would allow recreational use of marijuana — on the November ballot. The measure also would allow only the state to tax cannabis.

If Rogue River ever has a cannabis dispensary and hopes to tax it, it must have an ordinance in place before Measure 91 passes, City Administrator Mark Reagles explained.

Scheduled for action by the City Council in a meeting at 7 p.m. Oct. 23 in City Hall, 133 Broadway, the proposed ordinance would impose a tax of 5 percent tax on gross sales for medical use of marijuana, and 10 percent for recreational use.

 "We don't know there will ever be a dispensary in Rogue River," Reagles said. "We think, under our business license ordinance, which addresses federal and state law, we will not give a license to any business that doesn't follow state or federal law."

Federal law still identifies marijuana as a controlled substance.

 "I think it's really up to the feedback we get from the community, as to what direction the council goes on it," Mayor Pam VanArsdale said. "I think it's pretty divided equally with people who are totally against it and people who aren't so much. Right now, everybody's just guessing."

 "We signed the moratorium until the law changes. I guess I have to go with what the law says," Councilor Robert Catherwood said. "The courts have got to figure out, 'Who's on first?'"

 "Personally, I think it's inevitable," Councilor Mark Poling said about a dispensary opening in Rogue River. Noting that marijuana has been sold illegally in Rogue River for many years, he added, "I think a dispensary of some sort, controlled, is the proper way to do it."

 VanArsdale believes the council imposed the moratorium primarily because it wanted to see how other cities would handle the issue.

 "The council could choose to continue this denial, based on the fact that's its illegal under federal law, but a future council may say, 'You know what: We're not going to do that. We're going to allow dispensaries,' " Reagles said.

 He said it's difficult to pencil out the revenue from a local tax. Gold Hill's one medical marijuana dispensary, Breeze Botanicals, pays a 5 percent city sales tax that generates about $2,000 a month for public safety, according to City Manager Rick Hohnbaum.

 Voters there last month rejected an effort to recall several members of the Gold Hill City Council for allowing medical marijuana dispensaries.

 The Rogue River marijuana tax ordinance would put the revenue in the city's general fund.