Photo Credit: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP FILE PHOTO - Portland's City Council wants to collect a 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales if voters approve a measure on the November ballot.If Oregonians legalize recreational marijuana, the city of Portland hopes to take a 10 percent cut on sales.

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday on a city ordinance that would levy a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sold in the city, if Oregon voters pass Ballot Measure 91 in the general election.

City councilors also rejected an alternative version of the ordinance that would have levied a 5 percent tax on medical marijuana as well. A handful of citizens accused the city of a heartless attempt to extract revenue from people using marijuana legally for health maladies. But none of the councilors spoke in favor of taxing medical marijuana.

“Medical marijuana is therapeutic,” said City Commissioner Amanda Fritz, a former nurse. Mayor Charlie Hales said he put both ordinances on the council’s agenda for discussion, but agreed that it’s not appropriate to tax medical marijuana.

The city tax would be levied for the “sale, transfer, mixing, handling or serving of recreational marijuana and marijuana-infused products within the city.”

The marijuana tax still requires a second vote by the council before it gets enacted.

The city estimates that it will raise from $1.7 million to $4 million a year from the sales tax. Setting up an apparatus to start taxing marijuana sales would cost an estimated $150,000 in one-time costs, plus $280,000 in annual costs.

Ballot Measure 91 explicitly bars local governments from taxing marijuana, reserving that right to the state. However, Portland and several other municipalities are jumping in to create taxes before Measure 91 becomes law. The legality of those local taxes might have to be resolved in court.

Thomas Lannom, director of the city Revenue Bureau, said Measure 91 does require that some of the state marijuana tax proceeds be shared with cities. He estimated Portland’s share would total $171,000 to $556,000 a year.

Hales said that won’t be enough to cover the city’s costs.

Though Oregon doesn’t have a state sales tax, many items are taxed based on sales, including gasoline, cigarettes and alcohol. Marijuana may soon be added to the list.

Steve Law can reached at 503-546-5139 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Twitter: @SteveLawTrib

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