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Council votes to put pot sales, taxes on fall ballot

Voters will decide if Sandy allows dispensaries -

PMG FILE PHOTO - Marijuana and a ceramic smoking pipe.The Sandy City Council decided last week to pass the question of marijuana dispensaries and sales taxes to local voters as part of the upcoming general election.

The council unanimously approved the two ballot items at its Tuesday, July 5, meeting.

The first ballot item prohibits certain marijuana registrants and licensees in Sandy. The second item authorizes a 3 percent tax on recreational retail sales of marijuana items. Both were filed with the city recorder on Wednesday, July 6, and will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot.

Sandy currently has a ban on all marijuana dispensaries. The ban dates back to 2014, when council adopted an ordinance to ban only medical dispensaries. That ban prompted Eagle Creek resident and would-be Sandy pot shop owner Matt Naegeli to sue, saying Sandy had violated the Controlled Substances Act. Council responded by using the newly-passed House Bill 3400 to enact a moratorium on medical and recreational dispensaries until the 2016 general election, giving the issue to voters.

The two ballot measures passed by council last week are structured so that if voters do decide they want Sandy to welcome marijuana sales, they’ll also have to decide how to tax those sales. Essentially, voters will have to weigh, “if we allow it, should we collect a tax on it, or should we not allow it,” said City Manager Seth Atkinson.

But on Tuesday, council mused on what direction voters on either side of the issue would ultimately take. Councilor John Hamblin recalled the May failure of the Sandy gas tax and the Mt. Hood Community College facilities bond, noting taxpayers recently proved they aren’t keen to pay additional taxes.

“You could only imagine how that might turn out,” said Jeremy Pietzold, council president. “Where those that want it will vote yes on it and then no on the tax.”

Atkinson explained in an email that if the marijuana ban is upheld and the tax passes, it wouldn’t go into effect unless the ban was overturned in the future. If voters reject the dispensaries ban and approve the three percent tax, Sandy would be eligible to receive taxes on recreational marijuana product sales. If voters decide against the tax, it wouldn’t take effect, regardless of the vote to ban marijuana facilities.