Oregon legislators revealed a potential compromise in Salem today, which may provide a way past the fight over how much power local governments should have over regulating medical and recreational marijuana facilities. This issue has proven to be one of the stickiest ickies in the process of bringing retail marijuana to market in Oregon, and has single-handedly stalled attempts by the current legislature to refine the medical regulations to bring them in line with the requirements of a sustainable market and federal guidance.
At the heart of the issue is whether local government would be able to ban medical marijuana facilities without putting the ban to voters. The Oregon Senate recently passed a bill that would allow such bans. The Oregon House favors language that would automatically send any proposed ban to the ballot, much as Measure 91 does for proposed local bans of recreational facilities.
The latest amendments to House Bill 3400 attempt to circumvent this conflict by throwing money around (this has been known to work). The bill now allows local governments to collect a tax of no more than 3 percent on local sales of recreational marijuana, in exchange for cities and counties backing off the issue of local control for the time being. This is part of a proposed change to Measure 91 that would collect revenues through a sales tax on marijuana rather than a tax at harvest. Legislators are still toying with the percentages so that collections would approximate a harvest tax while also ensuring retail marijuana was priced competitively with the black market, but the latest proposal is 17 percent.
Update (6/11/15): Negotiations have broken down for the moment, with Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli e-mailing colleagues to say he was not on board with the compromise. While discussions about a switch to a sales tax from a harvest tax at the state level are ongoing, local taxes appear to be off the table for the moment.