ASHLAND, Ore. – Paul Ash scans the shelves at Puff’s Smoke Shop as he waits for a budtender to make her way over. Patients like Ash already pay a premium over black market prices for that retail experience.
Now they’re being asked to consider paying more.
“I would not mind paying the extra to have that security — knowing where it’s from, who the people are, and especially supporting a business in town,” said Ash.
A facility like Puff’s can sell tested, medicinal quality marijuana for $15 a gram. That’s about $50 an eighth in street prices.
They say that’s barely more expensive that what you’d pay on the black market, and cheap enough that they have no problem taxing it to give the city a cut.
“It’s not going to the state, it’s not going to the county, it’s going right to the city of Ashland to be used in the city of Ashland,” said Puff’s owner Mike Welch.
And the majority of the City Council agrees on the benefits of a tax — with a caveat.
“We want to be reasonable about how much we’re taxing and very clear about where the revenue is going to go,” said Councilor Carol Voisin, the lead proponent of the marijuana tax.
In order to do that, the council has directed the city attorney to consider the options. That includes a tax on growers that distribute to dispensaries, as well as a sales tax based on their already successful meal tax.
It also gives them the chance to preempt what could become a next step for the industry — a recreational market.
“It’s minimal kind of work, and let’s get it out there just as a precaution, because we don’t want to be behind the 8-ball when it does pass,” said Voisin. “And I think it will pass.”
Voisin says a draft ordinance is still months away. But the idea already has patients thinking about how much they’re willing to pay to bring marijuana from the underground into the community.
“It’s going to bring people in,” said Ash. “I’m going to go in here and purchase my medicine and go get a coffee down the street.”
While the majority of the City Council supports the idea of a tax, it does not have unanimous support. One member, Dennis Slattery, says he’s against taxing patients for something they need as medicine to survive. Voisin says she agrees, but hasn’t ruled out the idea of a minimal tax that could increase if marijuana becomes recreationally legal.