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Gearhart to send pot tax measure to voters

City’s tax higher than others
By R.J. Marx

The Daily Astorian

Published on August 8, 2018 8:23PM

Last changed on August 8, 2018 11:43PM

Jars of medicinal and recreational marijuana.

Colin Murphey/The Daily Astorian

Jars of medicinal and recreational marijuana.

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GEARHART — One more measure will find its way to local voters this November.

Gearhart will decide whether to adopt a 3 percent local sales tax on marijuana. The city’s first dispensary, Sweet Relief, opened in July on U.S. Highway 101.

Gearhart was among a few cities to vote in a tax prior to the legalization of recreational cannabis. In 2014, shortly before the state’s voters approved Measure 91, the city passed an ordinance requiring a 10 percent tax on the sale of recreational marijuana and a 5 percent tax for a medical marijuana registry cardholder.

After legalization, the state established a 17 percent tax on marijuana and limited local taxes to 3 percent. Cities may not tax medical marijuana sales.

With a 10 percent tax already in place, Gearhart city councilors had the option of defending the tax in court or asking voters to approve a 3 percent tax.

Sweet Relief co-owner Oscar Nelson asked the City Council to put the local tax in line with most other cities, including Astoria, Seaside and Cannon Beach.

“The Legislature said we can’t have more than 3 percent,” City Attorney Peter Watts said. “We have 10 percent. If we impose our 10 percent tax and it was challenged, would we win? I can’t tell you.”

Watts said a legal challenge would likely be decided by the Oregon Court of Appeals or Oregon Supreme Court.

At a special meeting on Tuesday, City Councilors Dan Jesse, Paulina Cockrum, Reita Fackerell and Kerry Smith opted to refer the 3 percent tax to voters. Mayor Matt Brown was absent.

If the November ballot measure fails, the city would need to decide whether to collect the 10 percent tax.



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