Portland City Council May Refer Pot Tax to Voters in November

Commissioner Amanda Fritz discloses the plan in a budget work session Monday.

Portland Commissioner Amanda Fritz says City Council is considering sending a tax on recreational marijuana to voters in November.

The idea of taxing pot in Portland is not new. But thanks to rules made by the Oregon Legislature in 2015, it does need voter approval.

Fritz's disclosure Monday, during a budget work session at City Hall, appears to be the first public acknowledgment that that tax will head to voters this year. Under state law, cities and counties can tax recreational pot up to 3 percent, so long as voters approve.

City officials previously approved the idea of taxing recreational marijuana in 2014, estimating that a 10 percent tax could raise as much as $4 million a year. It did so before voters approved recreational marijuana sales in hopes of skirting a provision in the ballot initiative that blocked such taxes.

A group pushing for traffic improvements in Portland has said it would like to use revenue from pot taxes to make streets safer.

Fritz's statement came during a discussion of Mayor Charlie Hales' budget for 2016-17, for which he is seeking a 14 percent increase in Portland's business income tax.

Portland's 2016-17 budget already includes record revenue owing to collections from the city's lodging and business-income taxes. Three city commissioners have said they will not support increasing the business tax from 2.2 percent to 2.5 percent.

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