Congressman Earl Blumenauer Questions If Portland's Pot Regulations Are Bad for Business

Criticism comes as the Portland City Council weighs a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) is urging the Portland City Council to reconsider its unnecessarily duplicative pot regulations as the council prepares Wednesday afternoon to ask voters for a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

And his words of caution appear to have caught the attention of city commissioners, who are likely to discuss the city's pot regulations during council discussion of the proposed tax, which would raise $3 million to $5 million per year.

In a May 25 letter to Mayor Charlie Hales and members of the city council, Blumenauer writes, "Portland's system appears to unnecessarily duplicate the state's licensing process, with extra costs to small marijuana business owners." He then warns that overly burdensome regulations could hamper a blossoming industry.

"There appears to be some tension between treating cannabis as a public health issue (which seems to be the main focus for the Office of Neighborhood Involvement) versus a craft industry and economic driver that can be a benefit to the city," he writes. "For the most part we strike the balance well, in dealing with our craft beers, ciders, distilleries and wineries. I'm confident we should be able to do it for cannabis."

Blumenauer wants the City Council to clarify its approach as it prepares to seek a local tax.

Earlier this week, Commissioner Amanda Fritz announced she would like the pot tax to pay for street infrastructure, job training programs and public safety, including DUII training and enforcement for police officers. Hales has indicated he would like to tap some of the money to pay for higher salaries for police officers as part of his early effort to renew the city's labor contract with the Portland Police Association union.

Commissioner Steve Novick says he would like some of the money to address problems related to air toxins.

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