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Beaverton leaders spar on way to OK pot tax

City Council denies THPRD request for 1,000-foot buffer for dispensaries

The Beaverton City Council approved ordinances establishing the ability to tax marijuana in the city along with land-use regulations, but not without another heated debate about the merits of medical marijuana and the perceived dangers of pot sales to children and families.

With Councilor Cate Arnold abstaining, the council approved a local tax of an unspecified amount at Tuesday night’s meeting, and passed on a 3-2 vote on land-use regulations for medical pot dispensaries that eliminate a proposed 1,000-foot buffer around Tualatin Hills Park and Recreation District facilities.

Beaverton now joins dozens of Oregon cities in setting up some form of marijuana taxation one week before voters decide on Measure 91, which would legalize recreational pot throughout Oregon and give the state the sole authority to tax its sale.

In explaining her abstention from the vote, Arnold said she’s unclear about the purpose of a tax — assuming the city has authority to do so — and the possibility that it could preclude Washington County from levying its own sales tax on weed.

“I hope we don’t pass it as a sin tax, because that’s not fair,” she said, noting tax discrepancies between dispensaries in county and city jurisdictions would create unfair advantages for some businesses. “I think a program like this is better regulated at the state level. I hope we’re not going to see a mini-OLCC (in the city).”

Park district General Manager Doug Menke called on the council to reintroduce a 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries and park district recreational facilities to an ordinance regulating where and how pot dispensaries can operate.

“For this ordinance, I’m asking your consideration to extend the 1,000-foot buffer to include THPRD recreational and aquatic facilities,” he said.

Councilor Betty Bode’s amendment to reintroduce the buffer, which the Planning Commission had included in its original recommendation but council earlier removed, failed in a 3-2 vote, with only her and Councilor Ian King supporting the buffer provision. Bode and King subsequently voted against the ordinance as written, which passed in a 3-2 vote.

State statute already calls for a 1,000-foot buffer between dispensaries and schools and residential zones.

Hammered out by members of the Planning Commission through the past few months, the ordinance calls for dispensaries limited to three zones of Corridor Commercial, General Commercial and Community Service with operational hours from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Indicating the buffer zone was unnecessary regarding regulated medical marijuana clinics, Councilor Marc San Soucie said passage of Measure 91 would likely prompt a new discussion about locations and regulations related to recreational pot shops.

“I would like to see the City Council finish its work on medical marijuana,” he said. “Should Measure 91 pass, I’d be very happy to revisit this question regarding stores selling recreational marijuana (which is) a totally different question.”

Mark Fagin said he supported the taxation ordinance to give the city options and opposed the THPRD buffer provision because it would create problems if the district builds new facilities near existing marijuana-based businesses.

On Wednesday morning, he said he would keep an open mind regarding the upcoming Measure 91 vote and its aftermath.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “But after last night, I think the city is pretty well positioned for whatever happens.”

Noting that she’s “tired of talking about this,” Bode on Wednesday offered she’s displeased with what she sees as the council’s cavalier approach to regulating marijuana sales in the city.

“I’m extremely disappointed in the direction the council is taking,” she said. “It does not support the best interests in livability in our city, and it’s not supporting kids, families and recreational activities by (rejecting) THPRD’s request.”