Council puts pot sales tax on ballot

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home City Council voted last week to place a 3-percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales on the Nov. 8 ballot.

The council voted 6-1 to put the question to voters during its regular meeting on Aug. 9. Councilor Jeff Goodwin voted no. Voting yes were councilors James Goble, Ryan Underwood, Greg Mahler, Mayor Jim Gourley, Dave Trask and Diane Gerson.

Goodwin asked the council whether it could wait until Sweet Home voters decide whether to allow marijuana sales in Sweet Home in the same election.

City Attorney Robert Snyder explained that the council would have to wait two years to attempt to pass the tax if it didn’t do it this year.

Cities are only allowed to put a marijuana tax on the ballot in general elections held in even-numbered years, he said.

Sweet Home voters will actually vote on two measures regarding marijuana sales: one that would continue a ban on medical marijuana sales and another that would ban recreational marijuana sales and manufacturing and processing of medical and recreational marijuana.

If residents vote against both bans, then the city is allowed by state law to impose a tax of up to 3 percent on marijuana.

If either ban is passed, then the city is not allowed to collect taxes on marijuana, Snyder said. In that case, it won’t matter whether voters approve the tax.

The council prohibited medical and recreational marijuana sales last year, allowed by the state under the condition that voters decide in the upcoming election. The prohibition grandfathered the existing Going Green medical marijuana dispensary, allowing it to continue selling medical marijuana.

Goodwin said he didn’t think the city ought to impose a tax until after the people vote on whether sales are legal.

He explained that proponents of marijuana sales have proposed taxes like this as a way to convince voters to allow the sale of marijuana.

“I’ll vote no because it confuses the issue,” Goodwin said.

In other business, the council:

– Discussed moving the council’s regular meeting time from 7:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month to 6:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month.

Councilors, staff and a citizen attending the meeting liked the idea, and Snyder said he would draft a revision to the ordinance that sets the time for the council’s consideration.

– Approved an intergovernmental agreement with the Linn County to set up video conferencing for court.

Currently, police officers transport prisoners from Linn County Jail to appearances at Sweet Home Municipal Court. Once in place, officers will no longer be required to transport defendants.

In 2015-16, the city transported prisoners 73 times at a cost of $7,497.85, according to Finance Director Pat Gray.