If a statewide ballot measure that legalizes recreational marijuana passes in November, should Josephine County get in on the action and tax it?
Josephine County voters will be asked that question in November following a resolution unanimously passed by the Josephine County Board of Commissioners in an emergency meeting Friday. It is an advisory question only and is not binding.
The meeting was hastily called because Friday was the last day the county could file to place a measure on the ballot.
Commission Chairwoman Cherryl Walker said she learned Friday morning that language in Measure 91 prohibits counties and cities from taxing marijuana.
If it passes, cities and counties will have to lobby the state Legislature for money to regulate marijuana, and the commissioners are sending the advisory question to the ballot to find out if the public wants them to try to pressure the state into providing more money for the county.
Measure 91, which qualified for the ballot last month, legalizes recreational marijuana for people ages 21 and older and allows adults over 21 to possess up to eight ounces of dried marijuana and up to four plants.
Voters rejected legalization in 2012, when voters in Washington and Colorado approved their own recreational measures. A similar measure is up for a vote in Alaska.
From a regulatory standpoint, Measure 91 would task the Oregon Liquor Control Commission with regulating sales of the drug and states that all taxes will be collected by the state and placed in a special fund for a variety of uses. It does direct 10 percent of the fund to be used for law enforcement and to be distributed based on population.
Josephine County commissioners anticipate the cost of regulating marijuana will exceed the county’s share of that tax.
Prior to voting on the advisory question, commissioners discussed passing an ordinance to place a measure on the ballot that actually would have created a tax on marijuana, but there was no time to hold public hearings on an ordinance.
The resolution could be accomplished in one day.
“We decided to at least get an advisory question on the ballot,” Walker said.
Because the advisory question does not distinguish between recreational marijuana and medical marijuana, the vote will also guide commissioners when a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries expires in May 2015, or earlier if they decide to lift the moratorium sooner.