The Toledo City Council has decided to tax both medical and recreational marijuana at a rate of 3% on both. The tax on recreational would depend on whether Measure 91 passes next Tuesday night at the polls.
City Attorney Wes Chadwick said the legal theory put forth by the Oregon League of Cities is that if cities have the sales tax on recreational marijuana before the voter initiative takes effect in December, then the tax would be grandfathered in despite the fact Measure 91 provides that the state alone will have taxing authority on recreational marijuana. All over Oregon, cities are enacting a sales tax on recreational marijuana thinking Measure 91 will pass. The vote in favor of taxing recreational marijuana was 4 to 3 in favor; Mayor Grutzmacher and Councilors Lyon, Dunaway and Baxter. Those against taxing recreational marijuana were Johnson, Strom and Kaufman.
Toledo councilors also passed a 3% sales tax on medical marijuana as well despite spirited disagreement from a medical marijuana dispensary operator and those who are waiting to re-open their’s – the argument being that marijuana is a medicine like any other and so should not be taxed like any other. They and a few medical marijuana patients also cited financial hardship already in purchasing medical marijuana without the added tax. They also predicted that the added tax would hurt sales within Toledo since other cities in Lincoln County have decided not to tax medical marijuana. The vote in favor of taxing marijuana was among Mayor Gruzmacher and Councilors Lyon, Dunaway, and Baxter. Those opposed to taxing medical marijuana were Councilors Johnson, Kaufman and Strom. Councilor Dunaway said his vote for taxing marijuana rises out of a desire to simply have a placeholder ordinance in effect prior to the enactment of Measure 91, if it passes. His comments about voting for taxing medical marijuana seemed more couched in terms of perhaps not really wanting to tax medical marijuana but voting for it simply as a precautionary endorsement pending the outcome of how the state legislature decides the issue.
Looking at other Lincoln County cities, Newport, Lincoln City and Yachats have have decided to tax recreational marijuana but not medical marijuana. Waldport is likely to pass a tax on recreational marijuana at their special city council meeting coming up Monday afternoon.
Lincoln County County Counsel Wayne Belmont has said several times that a lot of this is very much up in the air because the legislature will have a great deal to say early next year about these taxation issues, both medical and recreational will play out. And whether any lawsuits are produced by the outcome is quite unpredictable. Waldport City Manager Kerry Kemp said a great deal of the Waldport’s City Council’s opinion centers more around the idea that local taxes are local taxes and should not be infringed upon by state government. So although there may be some interest in taxing marijuana, an important element in the decision is to reflect the council’s concern about cities exercising their options under the state’s constitutional provisions of home rule.
And the council learned that Main Street will be closed on Halloween, October 31st, from 3:30 to 5:30pm to allow Main Street merchants to set up their Downtown Toledo Trick or Treat Street for the kids, who arrive at 4pm to enjoy the candied dreams of children everywhere. The trick or treaters will be scaring everyone up and down the sidewalks through 5pm. Just Main Street will be closed. No side streets will close except as they cross Main. Barricades will be clearly placed.