Seaside OKs marijuana tax, just in case

DON LARSON

SEASIDE — If the city of Seaside ever allows the sale of marijuana in town, a tax will be placed on it.

The City Council Tuesday night unanimously adopted an ordinance enabling a tax to be charged on marijuana and marijuana-infused products sold within the city. However, the amount of the tax was not determined.

“We have not provided a resolution that would set the tax rate,” said City Manager Mark Winstanley. “That will come later. This simply lays the groundwork should the ballot measure pass.”

On Nov. 4, Oregon voters will consider Ballot Measure 91, which would allow the sale, cultivation and distribution of marijuana throughout the state.

Councilor Jay Barber was the only councilor to comment on the ordinance before the vote.

“I’m going to vote in favor of the ordinance, but I don’t want it to be construed that I favor Ballot Measure 91,” he said. Mayor Don Larson and the other councilors agreed.

The Gearhart City Council is considering a similar ordinance at a special meeting Wednesday night.

Although medical marijuana is legally allowed in the state, the council established a moratorium on the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries last spring to further investigate the legal ramifications of allowing the dispensaries. The city’s business license tax prohibits stores that are illegal under federal law, which would apply to marijuana sales.

Steve Geiger, who owns a smoking paraphernalia store called Highway 420, took the council to task Tuesday night for its delay in discussing medical marijuana dispensaries. Before the moratorium went into effect, Geiger had made space available for a dispensary. Following investigation by the police, the city threatened to pull Geiger’s business license unless the dispensary was shut down. Geiger, who says he has met all the state requirements to operate a dispensary, discontinued it and offered to work with the city to establish local guidelines.

When the council adopted the moratorium, he said, “each one of you said you were not opposed to medical marijuana, that you needed time to plan. You said it was not a delay tactic.

“Medical marijuana is untouched by the ballot measure,” he added. “Legalization of marijuana has nothing to do with medical marijuana. I feel like I have been lied to and misled by the council.”

At that, Larson turned to his fellow councilors and said, “Well, council, I guess we don’t talk to each other, huh?”

At the end of the meeting, Councilor Dana Phillips said the council was doing its “due diligence” by attending sessions organized by the League of Oregon Cities on the medical marijuana law and by reading materials the council has been given.

Councilor Randy Frank agreed.

“It’s not like we can say, ‘you can do this,’” he said. “There is a lot of additional work that goes on.”

Until state officials determine what cities can legally do, “we are almost handcuffed,” Frank said.

In other business, the council:

• Approved a zone change on a portion of the Seaside Golf Course adjacent to Avenue U and on property across the street that was formerly the O’Donovan Clinic. Originally zoned for neighborhood commercial, the zone change will become residential commercial, allowing housing on the properties. Both sites are for sale.

• Accepted an $18,000 check from the Hood to Coast Relay and approved the next relay for Aug. 28 and 29, 2015.

• Agreed to seek an $800,000 loan from the Oregon Infrastructure Finance Authority to pay to shore up 800 feet of bank adjacent to the city’s wastewater treatment plant. The bank has steadily eroded, and, although part of the bank was reconstructed with rock earlier this year, at a cost of $200,000, the remaining bank needs work before winter storms wash it away, said Neal Wallace, public works director.

• Appointed Steve Wright to the city planning commission, Bob Perkel to the city transportation advisory committee and Kristin Tschannen to the community center and senior commission. Vacancies remain on the city’s tree board.

‘I’m going to vote in favor of the ordinance, but I don’t want it to be construed that I favor Ballot Measure 91.’

— Councilor Jay Barber

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