Last night Statesman Journal reporter Michael Rose tweeted:
Breaking: Salem City Council approves 10% sales tax on recreational marijuana if voters legalize it.
Today a story appeared on the SJ web site.
If Oregon voters in November legalize marijuana for recreational use, Salem will be ready with a new city tax on pot sales.
Salem City Council on Monday approved a city tax on sales of recreational marijuana products, including marijuana infused snack foods. The new ordinance would allow a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana. Sales of medical marijuana were excluded from the tax.
Download Pot tax approved by Salem City Council
Hey, that sure sounds like a endorsement of Measure 91 to me, the Oregon initiative that will legalize, tax, and regulate recreational marijuana for adults if it passes on November 4.
After all, Salem's Mayor and city councilors wouldn't want to get tax revenues from marijuana sales if they didn't think legal pot was a fine, upstanding substance for Salemians to consume, right? No ethical elected official would welcome money from the Demon Weed, if they believed in this myth.
So thanks, city leaders, for giving an unspoken thumbs-up to marijuana legalization. Since you mostly are conservatives, hopefully this will spur your Republican/Libertarian compatriots to vote for Measure 91.
There's only a couple of downsides to the near-unanimous Salem City Council action (Laura Tesler was the only "no" vote).
First, it almost certainly is illegal.
Measure 91 prohibits cities or counties from imposing their own local marijuana taxes. Most attorneys I've seen quoted on this issue say it is very unlikely that passing a tax before the election would trump the legal language of Measure 91.
Second, it almost certainly is a bad idea.
Marijuana policy experts are calling Measure 91 the nation's "gold standard" of cannabis legalization should it pass.
One reason is that the $35 per ounce taxation level is seen as being high enough to generate revenue for schools, law enforcement, and drug abuse prevention, while being low enough to draw marijuana users away from the black market.
Currently an Oregon medical marijuana dispensary is showing pricing of about $200 an ounce. So if the City of Salem were able to tax recreational marijuana sales at 10%, and the price per ounce also was $200, this would add $20 to the purchase cost.
Which would be on top of the $35 per ounce allowed by Measure 91. Now we're up to taxes totaling $55 an ounce, or a 28% "sales tax."
Sure, many people would be willing to pay that much for certified, tested marijuana being sold in a store. However, others wouldn't. They'd continue buying on the black market.
Thus the tax imposed by the Salem City Council last night not only is an implied endorsement of marijuana legalization, it also is an implied endorsement of a stronger remaining black market (including the portion controlled by drug cartels) following the passage of Measure 91.