Council places tax marijuana on Sweet Home ballot for November

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council held the first two readings of two ordinances that will refer a tax on marijuana to Sweet Home voters on Nov. 8.

Under state law, a city or county can tax marijuana up to 3 percent if it is legal in that city or county.

City Attorney Robert Snyder was uncertain whether that included medical marijuana.

The state law that authorizes the tax appears in a section on recreational marijuana, he told the council Monday night in a special session, and he would find out more before the council holds its third reading and makes a decision on the ordinances on Aug. 9 at its regular meeting.

In one ordinance, Snyder presented language provided by the League of Oregon Cities. That ordinance is the one that will go before Sweet Home voters and authorize the tax.

Details for collecting the tax were outlined in a second ordinance, implementing the first ordinance. The second ordinance is similar to language other cities have already passed.

The two ordinances only take effect if Sweet Home voters vote to allow both medical and recreational marijuana sales and production, two measures that also will appear on the ballot on Nov. 8.

A 3-percent tax would apply to marijuana and products that include marijuana if approved. Sellers would be required to pay the tax at the end of each quarter, with various financial penalties for noncompliance.

It also would require retailers to open their financial records to the city manager or a designee, although the information would remain confidential.

Revenue from the tax would go to the city’s general fund.

Councilor Greg Mahler said he didn’t think it would generate much revenue.

“There’s no tax police to see how much you owe for a tax,” he said. The business is in cash because the federal government continues to outlaw marijuana.

“I still think people have high expectations what they think the tax revenue is going to be,” Mahler said, but he supported passing the ordinance.

Present at the meeting were councilors Diane Gerson, Mahler, Mayor Jim Gourley, Dave Trask, Ryan Underwood and James Goble. Jeff Goodwin was absent.

The final reading and a possible decision will be held at the council’s next regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 9.

To be placed on the ballot, the ordinances must be in effect by Aug. 19. Both ordinances include an expediency and emergency clause so the city can meet that deadline.