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Tax on pot gets Medford council's attention

 Posted: 3:25 PM June 26, 2014

A tax on marijuana in Medford is a possibility the City Council may consider as it faces a trend toward more relaxed pot laws.

"Should we put in place now a tax on marijuana?" Councilor Dick Gordon asked during today's study session.

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," he said.

Medford so far has 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 in the future.

New Approach Oregon was preparing to submit 145,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State today to qualify for a ballot initiative.

New Approach's measure would allow adults age 21 or 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.

The Oregon Liquor Control Commission would be placed in charge of regulations and tax revenues that would be distributed to schools, police and drug and alcohol treatment programs.

The measure would allow for the recreational use of marijuana and is different from the medical marijuana law that allows sales to patients out of dispensaries.

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 out of stores.

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 seen 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.

— Damian Mann

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