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Portland Marijuana Tax Could Mean Collecting $3 Million In Cash

Voters in Portland will get to decide whether to add a local tax to recreational marijuana sales. The Portland City Council referred a 3 percent tax to the November ballot on Wednesday.

The city revenue bureau estimates the tax would generate at least $3 million a year.

But cannabis businesses still have little access to banks, so the tax would likely mean keeping track of millions in cash payments, according to bureau Director Thomas Lanham. He said he’d have to hire extra security to protect all those bills.

“A number of efforts are being made at the state level, and there are cottage industries to try to assist with those financial transactions and getting out of the cash arena, but they’re not up and running yet, so that sort of security would be necessary," Lanham told the City Council.

City leaders have proposed dedicating money from the tax to a broad range of programs, including public safety, drug treatment, small business development and expunging people’s convictions for marijuana related offenses.

Starting next year, the state tax on marijuana is dropping to 17 percent. Cities and counties across Western Oregon are considering referring local pot sales taxes to voters.

Copyright 2016 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Amelia Templeton is a multimedia reporter and producer for Oregon Public Broadcasting, covering Portland city hall, justice and local news. She was previously a reporter for EarthFix, an award-winning public media project covering the environment in the Northwest.