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Marijuana measures go before metro voters

Local pot tax, retail sales ban appear on many Nov. 8 ballots

Although legalizing marijuana is not on Oregon’s statewide ballot for the first time in four election cycles, many metro-area voters will decide the fate of 29 marijuana-related measures in the Nov. 8 general election.

Some voters, particularly in Washington County, Portland and Clackamas County, will decide whether to impose a 3 percent local tax on top of the statewide tax on retail sales of marijuana for recreational use.

Some voters will decide whether to keep current city bans on retail sales and related facilities.

Voters in five cities — Canby, Gladstone, Oregon City, Sandy and Sherwood — will decide both types of measures. If voters uphold the bans on retail sales, the added local tax would not take effect even if approved by voters.

All of these local measures stem from the 2014 Oregon ballot measure that legalized marijuana for recreational use and follow-up action by the Oregon Legislature to carry out the new law.

Political observer Jim Moore says voters probably have not seen the last of marijuana on the ballot.

“The reason why all these measures are out there is that there are a lot of pockets in this state that just disagree with the (2014) statewide vote,” says Moore, who teaches politics at Pacific University. “The measures are a reaction by their city councils and county commissioners to that approval. The people who oppose a statewide measure say they want local measures to prevent their sale.”

And, Moore believes, the reactions to legalization of marijuana will continue for the forseeable future.

“I think that shakeout will continue for at least one more election cycle — unless the Legislature puts its foot down and says there can be no local exceptions,” Moore said.

A 25 percent state tax was imposed on medical marijuana dispensaries selling cannabis for recreational use — cannabis for medical use remains untaxed — but the state rate will drop to 17 percent on Jan. 1. Cities and counties have the option of adding 3 percent with voter approval.

Nineteen of the metro-area measures fall into this category.

Cities and counties also will share part of the proceeds from the state tax, unless they choose to bar retail sales, in which case they get nothing. Under state law, 10 percent of state proceeds will go to counties and 10 percent to cities, all for law enforcement.

The other 10 measures on metro-area ballots ask voters whether they want to uphold current bans on retail sales of marijuana and related facilities, such as growing and processing.

State law allows that option for cities and counties, but required many of them to put the question to voters in the Nov. 8 general election. Although majorities of voters in several counties opposed the 2014 legalization in the form of Measure 91, majorities in Multnomah, Washington and Clackamas counties voted for it.

According to the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, which regulates recreational-use marijuana, bans are in effect in a total of 85 of Oregon’s 240 cities and 18 of 36 counties. Forty-five cities and five counties have referred bans to voters Nov. 8.

In Canby, the ballot question asks voters whether they want to remove the ban; in all other cities, the question is whether they want to uphold the ban. So a “yes” vote in Canby would be the opposite of a “yes” vote in the other cities.

Cities with a ban cannot share in the state tax or levy their own tax.

The city bans do not affect the provision of the 2014 law that allows each household to grow up to four plants, more for medical-marijuana cardholders and caregivers.