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St. Helens approves final fee for marijuana shops

Marijuana business license fee set at $2,500, with plans to adjust if needed in one year

SPOTLIGHT PHOTO: NICOLE THILL - The St. Helens City Council approved a $2,500 marijuana business license fee on Wednesday, Dec. 16. Establishing the fee was the last step in completing paperwork that marijuana business hopefuls need to open shop.The St. Helens City Council approved a $2,500 marijuana business license fee Wednesday night, Dec. 16, as the final step for allowing marijuana businesses to operate in the city.

The vote passed 3-0 with councilors Keith Locke, Ginny Carlson, and Mayor Randy Peterson voting in favor of the ordinance. Councilors Doug Morten and Susan Conn were absent.

The establishment of the marijuana business license fee was the final component needed for marijuana business hopefuls to begin operations. While the St. Helens City Council voted to change city code to allow the issuance of marijuana business licenses in September, the city went through a two-and-a-half month process of crafting documents and determining fees marijuana business aspirants had to satisfy prior to opening.

During the City Council work session Wednesday, City Administrator John Walsh recommended the business license fee be determined by the administration and enforcement costs associated with enforcing marijuana licenses, similar to the fee structure of other cities, such as Portland.

For comparison, marijuana retail businesses pay a $975 non-refundable application fee and a $4,175 license fee in Portland. Walsh used that model to suggest a fee that would fall below that amount, but couldn't say how the fee would compare to fees implemented in other cities, which can vary greatly.

“I can't say that it's mid-range. It's just a starting place. It can be adjusted up or down in the future,” Walsh said. “Whatever happens in the Legislature may impact that, regardless. It may come to be that we can't charge any fee for it."

During the work session discussions, Walsh, as well as Conn and Peterson, recommended establishing the $2,500 fee for at least one year and then reviewing and possibly adjusting the cost next December.

“I'm OK with $2,500, at least for a year until we see what actually the impacts are and [can] see what kind of time it takes,” Peterson said.

Earlier this month, the City Council unanimously voted to approve a community impact fee of 7 percent of gross sales for marijuana retail shops, along with a marijuana-related business license fee. The impact fee, which would be paid by retail shops but not growers, would fund a community health program designed to mitigate any negative effects marijuana would have on the community.

All growers, processors and retail shops, however, must have marijuana-related business licenses to operate, including payment of the newly established fee. Marijuana business hopefuls must first obtain a state license, then apply to the city of St. Helens for a business license and a marijuana-related business license, and enter into a community impact agreement prior to starting operations.

The city has already approved three conditional use permits for marijuana retail shops, and at least one grower has expressed interest in establishing a nursery.