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MailTribune.com
  • Medford council may look into marijuana tax options

    Officials want to be prepared if proposed legalization initiative gets on the ballot
  • With a trend toward more-relaxed pot laws — and the potential for marijuana legalization in Oregon — the Medford City Council is starting to look at whether to tax marijuana.
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  • With a trend toward more-relaxed pot laws — and the potential for marijuana legalization in Oregon — the Medford City Council is starting to look at whether to tax marijuana.
    "Should we put in place now a tax on marijuana?" Councilor Dick Gordon said at a council session Thursday.
    He also urged the council to consider zoning restrictions that could limit where marijuana businesses could be located.
    The suggestions were an outgrowth of a council session that discussed the long-range implications of marijuana legalization, particularly an initiative that likely will be on the November ballot.
    "It's prudent for elected officials to be prepared," Gordon said.
    Medford has so far taken a strong stance against medical marijuana dispensaries, enacting a permanent moratorium against them last year.
    Gordon said he's fearful that if Medford doesn't have a tax on the books now, it might be prevented from enacting one at a future date. Gold Hill, which has allowed dispensaries, enacted a 5-percent tax on medical marijuana sales recently.
    Medford is eyeing a ballot initiative proposed by New Approach Oregon, which submitted 145,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State on Thursday to qualify for the November election.
    If approved by Oregon voters, New Approach's initiative would allow persons 21 and older to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana at home and 1 ounce in public. Smoking in public would be prohibited, and there would be stiff penalties for selling pot to minors.
    Under the initiative, the Oregon Liquor Control Commission would be in charge of regulations, and the tax revenues from marijuana sales would be distributed to schools, police and drug and alcohol treatment programs.
    The initiative would allow for the recreational use of marijuana and is different from the medical marijuana law that allows sales to patients out of dispensaries. Another medical marijuana law allows designated growers to provide marijuana to patients.
    Medford and other cities in Oregon have gone to court to block the opening of dispensaries in their communities.
    However, the New Approach initiative would wipe out all existing local laws that prevent marijuana from being sold. A city could opt to create its own initiative that would ask local residents whether they wanted a ban on pot sales.
    The council appeared mostly in favor of exploring possible taxation or zoning requirements to deal with upcoming laws, but one councilor said he didn't see the point until the federal government decriminalizes marijuana.
    "Until something happens at the federal level, I'm not changing my mind," Councilor Tim Jackle said.
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.
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