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Voter turnout at 29 percent for Jackson County pot tax

Voter turnout stood at 29 percent Friday for a special election to decide whether Jackson County will adopt a marijuana tax, election officials said.

That is about average for this stage in a special election, said Jackson County Elections Deputy Donna Connor.

Ballots are due by 8 p.m. Tuesday, March 10.

Election officials are recommending against mailing in ballots at this point.

"It's definitely too late to mail," Connor said.

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.

If approved by voters Tuesday, 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.

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

Measure 91 enacts a state tax and bars local jurisdictions from adopting their own marijuana taxes. But dozens of cities and counties have adopted their own taxes in hopes the Oregon Legislature will allow them.

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.

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