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Council enacts tax on marijuana should city ban fail

Pot sales in Sandy would carry a 20-percent tax

In anticipation the possible passage of Measure 91, the Sandy City Council has passed a tax on both medicinal and recreational marijuana. For now, the city’s prohibition on the substance remains intact.

The staff report presented at Monday’s meeting states, “The ordinance would only be effective if the city of Sandy could no longer, legally, enact a ban on both medicinal marijuana dispensing or recreational retail sales.”

If passed in November, Measure 91 will allow for statewide recreational use of marijuana.

Because the measure would not allow local governments to implement new taxes on the product, Sandy is trying to be one step ahead by implementing a tax now.

However, City Attorney David Doughman stressed that what he called a “belt and suspenders” action is not a sure thing. Sandy’s new tax will need to be defended in court should Measure 91 pass.

The city is in a hurry to get a tax ordinance passed before voters decide on Measure 91 in the Nov. 4 election.

Instead of calling for a special meeting for the second reading of the proposed ordinance, the City Council adopted both readings at Monday night’s meeting after holding a public hearing.

The city collects taxes from liquor and cigarette sales, meant to help fund programs provided by the city that deal with the effects of the use of these substances.

City Council members unanimously supported the proposed marijuana tax, but felt the 10 percent tax rate that city staff proposed was too low. So councilors decided on a 20 percent tax.

“If they can afford to buy it, they can afford to pay taxes,” said Councilwoman Olga Gerberg.

Matthew Nageli of Eagle Creek, who has addressed the council on matters relating to cannabis dispensaries, came before councilors as a medical marijuana cardholder. He said the proposed action was a “pretty bitter pill to swallow.”

Nageli advised councilors not to implement the same tax on medicinal marijuana as recreational.

In the end, the council decided to continue on its course.

“Marijuana is marijuana,” Mayor Bill King said, citing personal belief.

Councilors said their decision was based on the desires of constituents. Councilman Carl Exner said more than 95 percent of his consulted constituents have expressed a desire to keep marijuana out of their community.

“We hear from citizens,” Councilwoman Lois Coleman said.

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