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Brownsville considers 6 percent marijuana tax

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BROWNSVILLE — Brownsville city officials have made it clear they don’t want marijuana sales in town, medical or recreational.

But if the Nov. 4 vote on Measure 91 takes that decision out of their hands, they want to put themselves in the best position to receive revenue from such sales.

To that end, councilors will consider and vote next week on a suggested 6 percent tax on sales of both recreational and medical marijuana.

The action will be a part of the council’s next meeting, 7 p.m. Tuesday at Brownsville City Hall. The meeting is open to the public.

City Administrator Scott McDowell said he understands the proposal will sound strange to councilors who just voted unanimously last month to levy fines and potential jail time against anyone who violates the city’s moratorium on operating a medical marijuana dispensary.

“I know this looks weird and I know this is counterintuitive to decisions you all have made so far,” McDowell said, referring to hypothetical conversations with the council. “But the bottom line at the end of the day is, if the state allows cities to tax, and preempts us, and we wouldn’t have the tax, that would be really foolish.”

Councilors may change the tax amount or decide against it.

Also, the city is facing too many unknowns to say what might happen if the tax goes through, McDowell said. Voters may turn down Measure 91, which would allow the possession, manufacture and sale of recreational marijuana.

Even if it passes, the measure specifically states that tax revenue will be collected by the state, not cities, McDowell acknowledged. Brownsville is just hedging its bets in case something changes.

“I think it’s a snowball’s chance, really, to being allowed in the state for cities to collect,” he said. “But this is the only opportunity that we would have to do that.”

Randy and Gayle Simpson of Brownsville received state licensing for a medical marijuana dispensary last spring but have been stymied by the moratorium in their attempts to open one in downtown Brownsville.

The city of Cave Junction received a court ruling this month allowing dispensaries to be banned outright. But McDowell said Brownsville won’t discuss anything similar at least until the outcome of Measure 91 is known.

Jennifer Moody is the education reporter for the Democrat-Herald. She can be reached at 541-812-6113 or jennifer.moody@lee.net.

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