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County residents could vote on pot tax — again

Jackson County residents may have the chance to vote on a marijuana sales tax — again.

This time around, the proposed tax would be 3 percent on retail sales of recreational marijuana.

In 2015, the Jackson County Board of Commissioners repealed a voter-approved tax of up to 25 percent on both medical and recreational marijuana because it ran afoul of a state law allowing local jurisdictions to impose a tax of up to 3 percent on recreational marijuana.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing on a proposed 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 17, in the Jackson County Courthouse Auditorium, 10 S. Oakdale Ave., Medford. Commissioners could then decide to place the issue before voters for the Nov. 8 election.

Saying they favor the sales tax, Commissioners Rick Dyer and Doug Breidenthal voted to schedule the public hearing.

Commissioner Colleen Roberts voted against the move.

Dyer noted that county voters overwhelmingly approved the tax of up to 25 percent. In a special March 2015 election, 63 percent of voters backed the tax.

Both Dyer and Breidenthal said marijuana legalization has created added costs for county departments, from the Planning Department to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office.

Breidenthal said he fields complaints every day from property owners upset about nearby marijuana grows.

"Marijuana should have to pay for itself if you want it legalized," he said.

Roberts said she didn't favor the statewide legalization of recreational marijuana in 2014, but now that it has been legalized, she doesn't support a county tax.

"I am personally against the tax. I feel marijuana is already being taxed at the state level quite heavily," she said, adding that high taxes could promote illegal marijuana sales.

Roberts noted Jackson County will receive a share of revenue from a state tax on recreational marijuana.

In January, the state began levying a 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana, although the tax rate is scheduled to eventually ratchet down to 17 percent.

After the costs of regulation and administration are covered, 20 percent of the revenue will go to cities and counties, 40 percent will go to the Common School Fund, 20 percent will go to mental health, alcoholism and drug treatment services, 15 percent will go to Oregon State Police and 5 percent will go to the Oregon Health Authority.

As of May 30, the Oregon Department of Revenue had processed $14.9 million in marijuana tax revenue, according to its most recent report.

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