Ashland will consider taxing both medical marijuana and — if it becomes legal — recreational marijuana.

Ashland will consider taxing both medical marijuana and — if it becomes legal — recreational marijuana.

Earlier this week, an Ashland City Council majority voted to ask city staff to develop a proposal to tax medical and recreational marijuana from retail grow sites through sales locations.

Staff will develop options for council consideration and potential adoption.

"I'm very interested in learning more about this concept," said Councilor Rich Rosenthal, noting that the council may not necessarily vote to approve a marijuana tax.

Councilor Dennis Slattery was the lone councilor voting against the move to ask staff to research the issue and develop a proposal.

"I have a reaction to taxing something we've labeled as being a medical supply," he said.

Slattery also noted that recreational marijuana is not yet legal in Oregon.

Recreational marijuana legalization advocates are gathering signatures statewide and may qualify several legalization measures for the November ballot in Oregon.

Ashland already has a 5 percent sales tax on prepared food and beverages, known as the meals tax, which helps fund its sewage treatment and parks systems.

Mike Welch, owner of Puff's Smoke Shop on Ashland Street and the operator of the Siskiyou Medical Supply marijuana dispensary inside the shop, said he supports the idea of a medical marijuana sales tax.

"I'm absolutely in favor of it," said Welch as he paused briefly in between rushing to help customers.

He said a 5 to 10 percent sales tax could generate revenue for city coffers.

A 10 percent tax would generate about $40,000 annually from his shop's sales of medical marijuana alone, Welch estimated, based on his current sales volume.

If recreational marijuana is legalized, Welch estimated his shop could generate another $35,000 in sales tax revenue for Ashland.

He said he doesn't know if all potential dispensary owners would support a tax.

"I'm a lot more community-oriented than any of the other people I've encountered in this business," Welch said.

He said he also can only comment from his retail sales perspective, not from the perspective of a grower.

In speaking with customers, Welch said they generally support a sales tax as long as they know it would go to the city and be spent locally.

"I think it's a logical thing for the city to do," he said.

— Vickie Aldous

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