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Ballots on Jackson County marijuana tax go out Friday

Ballots are in the mail for a special election in which Jackson County voters will decide whether to approve taxes on marijuana.

The Jackson County Elections Office will begin mailing the ballots Friday for the March 10 special election.

If approved, Measure 15-133 would authorize a tax of up to 25 percent on the sale of medical and recreational marijuana products.The Jackson County Board of Commissioners would set the actual tax rate.

The tax would apply to unincorporated areas of the county outside cities.

The measure also would authorize a medical and recreational marijuana tax on growers of $35 per ounce on marijuana flowers, $10 per ounce on marijuana leaves and $5 per immature marijuana plant.

The growers' tax would not apply to people with Oregon Medical Marijuana Program cards producing medical marijuana solely for their own consumption, or to people producing recreational marijuana solely for their own consumption.

The taxes would be retroactive to Dec. 1, 2014, with collection of the taxes beginning April 1.

Official ballot drop sites are the Jackson County Elections Office at 1101 W. Main St., Suite 201, Medford, and public libraries in Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point and Rogue River. The library drop sites open March 2. The Elections office drop site opens Saturday. Ballots can be mailed but must arrive by 8 p.m. on March 10.

Voters in November 2014 approved the legalization of recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older starting July 1. Retail sales under Measure 91 will become legal Jan. 1, 2016.

According to the measure, only the state can tax marijuana. But local jurisdictions hope that by adopting their own taxes prior to the measure going into effect, those local taxes will be grandfathered in. The Oregon Legislature and the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which will regulate retail sales, are in the midst of developing rules for Measure 91.

Jackson County does not have an estimate of revenue that would be collected if a county tax goes into effect.

Oregon officials estimate a state tax on marijuana will yield $17 million to $40 million annually. Measure 91 allocates 40 percent of the revenue to schools, 20 percent for mental health services and drug and alcohol treatment, 15 percent for state police, 20 percent for local law enforcement and 5 percent for the Oregon Health Authority.

Jackson County is beginning a separate process to regulate medical marijuana facilities. It could impose conditions on hours, locations and the review process for applications. The county will offer chances for public input as it develops those land-use regulations for unincorporated parts of the county.

A county moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries — imposed so officials could develop regulations — expires on May 1.

(The headline & details in this story have been clarified) 

Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-776-4486 or valdous@mailtribune.com. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/VickieAldous.