The Oak Park Board of Trustees is poised to again reject a proposal that would place a 6 percent tax on medical cannabis.
It’s the second time the Village of Oak Park has brought a plan to trustees to place a tax on the drug that is prescribed as a treatment for patients with conditions such as AIDS, cancer and multiple sclerosis.
The village proposed implementing the tax on medical cannabis in 2015, but the board of trustees rejected the proposal, largely because the drug would be the only medication taxed in that way in the village. Other prescription medications are not.
The new proposal by the village would have imposed a 6 percent tax on both medical and recreational cannabis.
Village Attorney Paul Stephanides explained that the proposal was intended to get a tax structure on the books in anticipation of recreational cannabis being made legal under the new administration of Gov. J.B. Pritzker, who promised during the campaign to legalize recreational cannabis.
Trustee Bob Tucker was one of the trustees who rejected the 2015 tax plan. He reminded trustees of the board’s earlier decision.
Tucker requested that the board consider taxing recreational cannabis at the 6 percent rate and medicinal at a nominal rate like half a percent.
Village Manager Cara Pavlicek said it is uncertain what the state might do in terms of taxation, and the proposal aims to get a taxing structure on the books before a decision is made at the state level.
The village is attempting to grandfather in a local tax on recreational cannabis if the state attempts to usurp home-rule authority for taxing the drug, she said.
“I think the concern was that, in the case of Oak Park for example, at some point in time the state outlawed the ability for municipalities with their home-rule authority to tax tobacco sales, but cities that already had it in place were allowed to keep those taxes.”
Pavlicek noted that some cities like Evanston have implemented a tax on medicinal cannabis.
Trustee Deno Andrews, in an attempt to get a rough estimate of how much it might affect consumers of the drug, asked how much an ounce of medicinal cannabis costs.
The board broke out in laughter when Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb authoritatively stated, “Last time I checked it was 200 bucks.”
Abu-Taleb assured trustees that he looked it up before the meeting, adding that he “thought this was going to come up.”
He said most patients use about $5 to $10 of the drug per day, according to his research.
“So about 30 cents a day would be the tax at 6 percent if it was a $5-a-day dose; that’s a lot,” Andrews said.
Andrew said he agreed that because of the potential financial impact to users, the tax on medical cannabis should be at a maximum of 1 percent.
The board is expected to revisit and vote on the issues at a future meeting.