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Ketchikan voters will decide Oct. 3rd whether to impose a 5-percent marijuana sales tax boroughwide.

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough voted Monday to place that measure on the ballot.

The original ordinance that came before the Assembly on Monday called for a 10-percent tax. During its last meeting, though, the Assembly directed borough staff to draft a substitute motion amending that to 5 percent. The intention is to mirror the City of Ketchikan’s 5-percent marijuana tax.

If the tax is approved by voters, the borough would credit the city for its 5 percent, so the overall cannabis tax within city limits would not change.

During Assembly discussion of the issue, Assembly Member Glen Thompson proposed three amendments, two of which failed to pass. The first to fail would have increased the proposed tax to 12 percent; the second would have removed the credit to the city.

Thompson’s third and successful amendment calls for the tax to sunset after five years.

Assembly Member Stephen Bradford offered another successful amendment to direct revenue from the tax into the general fund, rather than economic development.

After all their amendments, both Thompson and Bradford voted against the main motion. Here’s Thompson, who has consistently opposed targeted taxes.

“I trust the voters to make the decision on this. I still oppose it because I think it’s morally wrong,” he said. “If you want to tax something to get less of it, fine. If you want to raise taxes to get more revenue, fine, but make up your mind. Don’t try to do both at once, and that’s what these special sales taxes do. And they single out one industry as a pariah.”

Bradford agreed, noting that the marijuana industry is legal, by the will of the voters.

“I did support his attempt to amend the tax to 12 percent, frankly just to make it so unpalatable to the voters that they would have voted it down,” he said. 

The cannabis tax ordinance passed 5-2.

Also Monday, the Assembly rejected a motion that would have removed the waiver within city limits of the borough’s 4-percent hotel tax.

Following that vote, Assembly Member John Harrington proposed that borough staff bring back a measure to increase the borough’s hotel tax to 7 percent, which would mirror the city’s. Such an increase would require voter ratification. 

Harrington’s motion passed 4-3, with Thompson, Bradford and Assembly Member Mike Painter voting no.

In other matters, the Assembly postponed a motion to rezone Alaska Mental Health Trust-owned land in the Mountain Point area. The state agency wants the rezone in anticipation of developing the land. There was public comment opposed to that development. Speakers were concerned about limits to beach access and fishing opportunities.

The Assembly directed borough management to reach out to Alaska Mental Health Trust officials to start a Planned Unit Development process. That would plan the future of that area with the goal of benefiting all users.

The Assembly’s next meeting is Sept. 5th – the day after Labor Day.