Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Assembly to rehash cannabis tax


August 30, 2018

Should the Haines Borough target only local marijuana growers with its new excise tax? Assembly members are split.

The borough currently levies a $5 per ounce excise tax on “marijuana that is sold or transferred from a marijuana cultivation facility to a retail marijuana store or marijuana product manufacturing facility.”

Haines Borough manager Debra Schnabel requested clarification from the assembly last month on whether or not the assembly intended to place an excise tax only on local growers when it approved the tax last year. Assembly member Sean Maidy last month made a motion that passed 4-2 to include language specifying the excise tax only target local growers.

At last Tuesday’s meeting, assembly member Brenda Josephson said when she originally voted to approve the excise tax, she mistakenly thought local retailers would only be buying from local growers. “I think if anyone’s selling it, no matter where it comes from, they should be paying an excise tax for it coming into the borough,” Josephson said. “I don’t want to make it a disadvantage for a local producer. I want to make sure the local producer is on the same level of any other place that it’s coming from.”

Assembly Tom Morphet, who has advocated for a retail sales tax on marijuana rather than an excise tax, agreed that he didn’t want to penalize local growers. He made a motion to move the ordinance to the finance committee for review.

Assembly member Heather Lende called a point of order and said it wasn’t appropriate to change the current ordinance because an assembly member disagrees with the tax mechanism. “Just because someone disagrees with the current ordinance, can we send it to committee to change it?” Lende asked. “This is a clarification of an existing ordinance, not the question that you talked about.”

Assembly member Sean Maidy made a motion to interpret the excise tax as only applying to cultivators located in the borough who sell to retailers inside the borough, a premise he said the assembly all agreed with when they originally approved the tax. His motion to amend the ordinance failed 2-4.

“We are the ones who made the decision. It is our responsibility to clarify the decision that we made,” Maidy said. “Passing it off to a committee to say, ‘What did we mean when we say?’ That is the definition of kicking the can. That is, not to mince words, ridiculous.”

The assembly voted 4-2 to move the ordinance to a finance committee meeting with Maidy and Lende opposed.

Maidy and Morphet both advocated for a tax at the retail level last year when the assembly originally discussed placing a tax on marijuana.

Anchorage, Juneau, Mat-Su and Ketchikan all levy sales tax on retail marijuana and marijuana products. Ketchikan has designated a “marijuana sales tax fund” where its revenues are used to combat homelessness.

The Petersburg Borough levies a $25 per ounce excise tax on all marijuana brought into the borough as well as marijuana cultivated inside the borough.


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