Could Portland sneak in a sales tax on pot before a vote?

Could Portland sneak in a sales tax on pot before a vote? »Play Video
(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson, File)

PORTLAND, Ore. -- The City of Portland may try to slap a city sales tax on marijuana so it can collect tax revenue if the state votes to legalize marijuana in November.

“We need to talk to the revenue department. We need to talk to the state. We need to talk to lots of folks to find out if it’s entirely possible to do it. Ashland is looking into it as well. We’re following the second city we know of asking the questions. But that’s what it is, asking the questions,” Dana Haynes, spokesman for Mayor Charlie Hales told KATU.

It's one of the issues a committee of 20 people will research as part of Mayor Charlie Hales plan to tackle potential issues with the legalization of marijuana before the vote in November.

Haynes said if the city is able to implement a sales tax on marijuana sales, the time to act is now.

"We can modify our taxes as reality changes but it’s much harder to go back (and) tax something that’s been around forever and ever. That’s a bit more of an entrenched policy," Haynes said.

In the language of the ballot measure up for a statewide vote this November, cities are not allowed to tax the sale of marijuana. It states the following:

"Section 42. State has exclusive right to tax marijuana. No County or city of this state shall impose any fee or tax, including occupation taxes, privilege taxes and inspection fees, in connection with the purchase, sale, production, processing, transportation, and delivery of marijuana items."

But that isn't law yet.

Peter Zuckerman, spokesperson for A New Approach Oregon, the organization behind the push to get this measure on November's ballot told KATU, "The city council has a right to make rules for the city — what I don’t know is if those rules will comply with the state law, and they have a right to go to court and determine that."