Add a pot sales tax to all the other taxes you're juggling these days, Portland.

The Portland City Council voted this afternoon to refer a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana sales within city limits to the November ballot. That same ballot looks like it'll also contain a $250 million local bond measure aimed at affordable housing, and a controversial statewide corporate sales tax. And remember, those will appear months after voters passed a 10-cent-per-gallon gas tax to help pay for city streets, and city council enacted a 1 percent tax on new construction (which will happen next week, barring a bizarre change in course).

Truly, these are tax heavy times.

But let's focus for now on the pot tax measure, which you can read in full here [pdf]. If enacted, it would result in Portland marijuana users being taxed a total of 20 percent on their recreational purchases beginning January 1. That's less than the current 25 percent tax (which is set to expire), but more than the 17 percent you'd pay if voters shoot down the local sales tax.

The city says the local tax would rake in about $3 million every year. The measure council referred to the ballot today says that money has to go to one of three places:

•drug and alcohol treatment programs

•public safety efforts that reduce negative impacts of drugs and alcohol (that can include wide-ranging things like paramedics, police training, or even street improvements that make roads safer)

•support for "neighborhood small businesses," with a special focus on minority- and women-owned businesses

Commissioner Amanda Fritz—who brought the tax forward and will be campaigning for it this fall—says that mixture is flexible enough to have a range of uses, yet connected enough to the pot that's being taxed to make sense to voters.

But not everyone agreed with her priorities. The surprise of this afternoon's hearing was how little it contemplated marijuana. Instead, public testimony was dominated by Portland air quality advocates, who've been pushing for new local regulations in the wake of revelations about carcinogens issuing from glass factories (and other air quality issues).

The advocates pressed—hard—for council to consider putting some of the $3 million revenue toward making Portland a better place to breathe.

"It’s critical that we always look for funding opportunities to address this problem," said long-time air quality advocate Mary Peveto.

"This new source of revenue can help to address an urgent and persistent health threat in this city," said Chris Winter, an environmental law attorney and Portland's Crag Law Center. "It makes perfect sense for a portion of the cannabis tax to be dedicated to the intersection of environmental protection and human health."

At least one member of council was in their corner. Commissioner Steve Novick pressed his colleagues to consider earmarking some of the tax revenue for helping businesses convert older diesel engines to cleaner burning models. Diesel pollution is a central concern for Portland's air quality, but not everyone agreed that it should be intermingled with a marijuana tax.

"I am interested in the air quality issue, but frankly I see it as a completely severable matter from the tax," said Mayor Charlie Hales, who's said he'd like to put at least some of the pot revenue into paying police officers more.

Novick pressed. "A large amount of people consume marijuana by smoking," he said. "To use some of the money to protect people's lungs form other pollutants, I think, is reasonable."

Support The Portland Mercury

The disagreement almost got a vote on the resolution delayed until next week—when council will be taking up the new construction tax and the $250 million housing bond. But Novick notched a small victory, getting the verbiage of the ballot measure amended by a word ("innovative" was removed), which council members seemed to agree creates a potential opening for women- and minority-owned businesses to convert their diesel engines with pot tax money.

So now—after a unanimous vote—we'll be voting on a pot tax.

"It's with mixed feelings I vote on this," Fritz said before casting her vote. "I'm condemning myself to dozens of neighborhood meetings."