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Phoenix voters to decide on pot tax in November

Phoenix voters will be asked to decide whether a 3 percent tax should be imposed on recreational marijuana sales within city limits at the Nov. 8 general election.

Revenues would be used for public safety, education and parks. No specific allocation percentages were included in the measure.

Under state law, city councils may refer a 3 percent tax to voters on recreational marijuana items sold by licensed retailers at a statewide general election. The state already taxes recreational sales at 25 percent.

Top Shelf Wellness Center, located in the Shoppes at Exit 24, and Fireside Dispensary on South Pacific Highway, are the only recreational sellers within city limits.

Councilors approved putting the measure on the ballot in a 4-1 vote Monday. Councilor Terry Helfrich cast the dissenting vote, saying the money should be spent only for law enforcement and education.

“I support the tax in general, I just don’t support the distribution, so I voted no,” said Helfrich. “I’ve had a lot of citizens agree it shouldn’t go to parks.”

Phoenix police will need money for code enforcement of nuisance ordinances that relate to marijuana grows, said Helfrich. Education about marijuana should also be funded, he said.

An explanatory statement prepared for the ballot projects annual revenues of $15,000 or more. City Attorney Ryan Kirchoff told the council that was only an estimate and there was little way to predict actual income.

Attempts to reach owners of Top Shelf by phone and email for comment were unsuccessful. Phone messages left for owners at Fireside were not returned.

Other local city councils have considered or put tax measures or other marijuana-related proposals on the November ballot.

Ashland City Council has approved a tax measure vote, said City Recorder Barbara Christensen.

Central Point City Council has approved putting a 3 percent tax measure on the November ballot at the same time asking citizens whether they want to lift a council-imposed moratorium on medical and recreational pot dispensaries.

Eagle Point City Council has referred ballot measures to allow recreational-sales businesses and to impose a 3 percent tax.

Gold Hill City Council has discussed placing a tax on the November ballot. City Manager Rick Hohnbaum anticipates it will do so.

Jacksonville has banned processing and sales of both recreational and medical marijuana until voters can decide in November whether they want to allow the activities.

Medford City Council has voted to place a ballot measure before voters that would ban the sale of recreational marijuana.

In other business, the Phoenix council set rules and fees for the hanging of banners by city crews across Main Street. Organizations would be charged $330 for the service. Medford and Central Point charge $275 to $300 for similar service.

Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwriter@gmail.com.