Link to Owner Dr. Robert B. Pamplin Jr.



When voters legalized recreational marijuana two years ago, it came with a hefty 25 percent sales tax, which has been used by the state to fund drug treatment, education and police. (Medical marijuana is and will remain tax-free.)

Next year, the tax rate drops to 17 percent, but relief for recreational pot consumers may be tempered. Starting in January, cities and counties can add a new 3 percent tax on sales — and dozens of them, including Portland, are hoping to do that with fall ballot measures.

Measure 26-180 would allow Portland to collect the maximum 3 percent tax on recreational pot sales within the city limits. With those sales pegged at about $100 million a year, that translates to $3 million in new money.

City Commissioner Amanda Fritz is leading the effort to pass the tax. She and other supporters are proposing to use some of the funds to support public safety initiatives and drug and alcohol treatment. Both of those earmarks make sense and are pretty common in local marijuana tax proposals.

But the Portland measure adds an interesting wrinkle, designating that some of the funds go to businesses and individuals “disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition.”

What does that mean? Fritz explains it falls largely into two efforts. First, the funds would provide grants to low-income residents who want to expunge their records of marijuana possession charges, as allowed by the law. Second, it would help Portland women and minorities get into a recreational marijuana industry that Fritz says is dominated by white men.

If the measure passes, the pot tax in Portland, including the state’s share, will be 20 percent. That’s enough to make it a little less attractive to buyers. In effect, it will raise revenue while possibly dampening demand — both of which are worthwhile outcomes.

Since voters overwhelmingly decided to make recreational marijuana legal in Oregon, this local tax measure is a sensible response.

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