Voting on a potential vote: Josephine County looks for support to possibly tax pot grows

(Courtesy: Public Domain Pictures)

Oregon counties are not allowed to tax the marijuana industry - it's a state tax. With so much production in southern Oregon, some counties are trying to change that.

"Until we get rid of the illegal side of it, it's going to be tough for the legal side to flourish," Josephine County Commissioner Chair Dan DeYoung said.

This year's Josephine County Ballot features Measure 17-88: Would voters support a cannabis tax if it were possible? DeYoung calls the tax essentially a business license fee as it would only be imposed on growers, not consumers.

The tax would help build a law enforcement trust fund that all Josephine County law enforcement agencies could pull from.

"It could be used for park rangers, for our county park system, I want to put a resource officer in all four high schools in Josephine County, I also want resource officers going in our junior high school programs," DeYoung says he told Governor Kate Brown.

DeYoung claims the tax would eventually pay for itself, and then some. He even hopes it will pay out enough money so the people of Josephine County do not have to pay another jail levy in four more years. The fund itself would have oversight from the budget committee and a board of trustees to approve or deny what the money is used for.

"Successors farther down the road ten years from now would say 'Whoa look at that big pile of money, let's buy an air-conditioned helicopter!' No. It can't be touched for that," DeYoung said.

Josephine along with Jackson, Curry and Coos counties are trying to change the law in Salem to make this possible. This vote would provide data for commissioners to present to legislators when asked if the people support the idea.

DeYoung believes the fund would help provide additional security and safety for the legal cannabis grows while deterring the illegal ones at the same time.

The Commission Chair added if the law does get changed, the tax would be put to the voters on the November 2019 ballot. If passed at that time, the trust fund may start to see money coming in the following spring of 2020.

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