10 percent rate set for recreational product
by Randy Parks
Burns has joined a number of other Oregon cities hoping to cash in on a new revenue source should Measure 91, legalizing recreational marijuana, pass in the Nov. 4 election.
At the Oct. 22 city council meeting, the council approved an ordinance “establishing a tax on the sale of marijuana and marijuana-infused products.”
The council also approved a resolution that established a 10 percent tax on recreational marijuana, but no tax on medical marijuana. It was pointed out that the tax rates can be changed at a later date if the council so desires.
Although more than 20 cities have approved local taxes on legal marijuana, there is no guarantee the taxes will withstand a legal challenge. Section 42 of Measure 91 states: “No county or city of this state shall impose any fee or tax… in connection with the purchase, sale, production, processing, transportation, and delivery of marijuana items.” Section 58 adds: “(the state law) shall be paramount and superior to and shall fully replace and supersede any and all municipal charter enactments or local ordinances inconsistent with it.”
The cities that have passed a local tax believe that by establishing a tax before the measure passes, if it does, the tax will be “grandfathered” in.
From state taxes collected under Measure 91, 40 percent of the proceeds go to schools; 20 percent to programs involving mental health, alcoholism and drug services; 15 percent to state police; 10 percent each to city and county law enforcement; and 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority.
Harney County resident Denny Brown said the city gets a portion of taxes from the sale of alcohol, and a tax on marijuana should be comparable to what the liquor tax is.
Dave Smerski of Burns had questions about the city’s insurance and liability, and was informed that he should visit with the city manager one-on-one to get the answers to his questions.
John Clemens of rural Harney County expressed concerns about having a medical marijuana dispensary located in Burns and its effect on kids. He said the city should have looked at putting in a moratorium “a little closer.”
“Just because the government says we can do something, doesn’t mean we have to do it,” Clemens said.
The city also approved an ordinance amending and restating Burns Municipal Code (BMC) Chapter 5.05 in its entirety, which chapter concerns business licenses; and declaring an emergency.
The ordinance states, in part, “BMC 5.05 was enacted for the purposes of (a) regulating businesses operating in the City of Burns (“City”), (b) providing revenue for municipal purposes, and (c) promoting the health, safety, and welfare of City’s citizens; and
…the Burns City Council finds that it is necessary to amend and restate BMC Chapter 5.05 in its entirety in order to, among other things, accommodate businesses that may have otherwise been inadvertently prevented from operating in City’s corporate limits.”
Several weeks ago, the council approved a “business license with provisions” for a medical marijuana dispensary, and agreed to hold a meeting for public input on the provisions. The public meeting to determine the “time, place and manner” of the dispensary will be held at 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12, at city hall.
Mark Hetrick of Country Vision Cable in Lane County was present to ask the council about the possibility of a non-exclusive franchise agreement with the city to provide television, internet and phone services.
Hetrick stated Country Vision has been in business for about 25 years and is looking to expand its area. He explained that Charter Communications is looking to sell a number of its systems, including some in Lane County and the Burns/Hines area, and Country Vision would like to provide service to those areas.
The council asked Hetrick to provide more information before making a decision, and Hetrick said he would submit the information to City Manager Kraig Cutsforth.
Public Works Director Dave Cullens asked the council for approval to purchase a 10-yard dump truck, as the one the city is currently using is worn out and needs to be replaced. The council voted to allow Cullens to spend up to $20,000 for a dump truck replacement.
Cullens also asked the council for permission to proceed with an easement and right-of-way along an existing drainage ditch that runs from behind A B Concepts to South Egan. Cullens said he had talked to property owners in the area and none had an objection. The drainage ditch carries most of the water from the downtown area, so it’s important to keep it clean of debris.
Cullens contacted Ferguson Engineering to survey the area at a cost of about $8,000. The council voted to allow Cullens to move ahead with the project.
In other business, the council:
• approved a $150 donation to the meal program at the Harney County Senior and Community Services Center, and a $100 donation to Harney Partners for Kids and Families for Red Ribbon Week;
• set single meeting dates for November and December because of the holidays. The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. Nov. 19 and Dec. 17;
• scheduled a special meeting for 8 a.m. Thursday, Oct. 30, to discuss the city manager position.