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West Linn City Council approves tax on future marijuana sales

Preemptive tax would go into effect if state measure to legalize recreational use passed in November


Following in the footsteps of cities like Wilsonville and Lake Oswego, the West Linn City Council voted unanimously to approve a tax on future marijuana sales in a special meeting Oct. 1.

West Linn Ordinance 1631 establishes sales taxes of 5 percent for medical marijuana and 10 percent for recreational use. The taxes would go into effect only if Oregon voters pass Measure 91 to legalize recreational marijuana use in the November election.

If passed, Measure 91 would establish a statewide tax on marijuana sales while also prohibiting local governments from implementing their own taxes after the fact. Thus, while West Linn could repeal its local tax at any time, the city would not have the ability to implement a tax after the measure passes.

As City Manager Chris Jordan wrote in a memo, the city does not expect to generate large revenues from the tax — rather, it will be used to prevent West Linn from becoming a “tax free haven for marijuana sellers and distributors.”

West Linn’s tax would be levied quarterly on any marijuana sellers within city limits, allowing the city to audit the sales of any marijuana distributor. The taxes would ultimately fall into West Linn’s general fund.

“I’d love to see (the money) used for drug abuse education or prevention,” City Councilor Mike Jones said.

Surrounding cities like Lake Oswego and Tigard have also approved taxes of 5 percent and 10 percent for medical and recreational marijuana sales. West Linn City Councilor Thomas Frank suggested that West Linn’s rates be slightly higher than surrounding cities.

The Wilsonville City Council, for instance, recently approved a 12 percent tax on recreational marijuana and a 7.5 percent tax on medical pot.

“We’re already called the weed capital of Oregon, for better or worse,” Frank said. “I’d rather not — as a community value — have these (dispensary) facilities in our boundaries.”

Ultimately, the City Council voted to keep the taxes at 5 percent and 10 percent.

“Anyone looking to litigate someone with regards to the tax ... will go for someone with the highest tax,” Jones said. “Other cities are all 5 and 10 (percent), or 0 and 10. I don’t disagree in theory, but if we’re being reasonable we should be consistent with the community.”

A SurveyUSA poll conducted in June showed tepid support for statewide marijuana legalization, as 51 percent of the 560 likely voters said they would support such a measure while 41 percent opposed and 8 percent said they were “not sure.” Support for legalization was strongest in the 18 to 34 demographic (70 percent), and dropped to 34 percent among those 65 and older.

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