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Jackson County voters to decide on local pot tax

Jackson County voters will decide in November whether to impose a 3 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana.

Jackson County Board of Commissioners members Rick Dyer and Doug Breidenthal voted Wednesday to put the issue before voters during the Nov. 8 general election. Commissioner Colleen Roberts voted against the move.

The countywide tax would be on top of a 17 percent permanent state sales tax on marijuana.

Breidenthal said the local sales tax would raise money to help offset some of the costs of marijuana legalization to Jackson County government. He predicted higher costs for planning and code enforcement, law enforcement and health and human services.

Without a sales tax that would be paid by marijuana users and the marijuana industry, Breidenthal said, the burdens from legalization will fall on property-tax payers.

"I do not believe in any way, shape or form that it should be subsidized by property taxes," he said.

Dyer pointed to Jackson County voters' 2015 approval of a much higher local sales tax of up to 25 percent on both medical and recreational marijuana. Commissioners later had to repeal that tax because it ran afoul of a new state law limiting local taxes to 3 percent on recreational sales.

Dyer said he wanted county voters to have a voice on a local 3 percent tax.

"We are allowing voters to decide for themselves whether this tax is warranted," he said. "Voters previously voted for a much higher tax. I'm not going to disregard their vote."

Roberts said she campaigned on a pledge to control or reduce taxes and fees where feasible.

"That was my pledge when I was elected," she said.

Roberts said she also opposes levying a tax against a specific group of people, such as marijuana users.

County officials said they can't predict how much a 3 percent sales tax would bring in.

In January, the state began levying a 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana. The state tax is scheduled to ratchet down to 17 percent Oct. 1.

If approved by county voters, the local 3 percent tax would go into effect Dec. 8, county officials said.

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

As of May 30, the Oregon Department of Revenue had processed $14.9 million in state 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.