BOCC meets Monday: Marijuana retail tax could be on ballot

The Hood River County Board of Commissioners is working to get a local tax on retail marijuana on the November 2018 ballot.

The 3 percent sales tax would apply to the entirety of unincorporated Hood River County.

The commission will do its first reading of the ordinance at their regular July 16 meeting and intends to schedule a second reading, along with a public hearing, for Aug. 6.

The proposed tax would apply to marijuana leaves and flowers, immature marijuana plants and any cannabinoid products, including but not limited to edibles, concentrates and extracts. Medical marijuana products and registry identification cardholders would be exempt.

With voter approval, a subsection of Oregon’s cannabis regulation law (ORS 475B) permits municipalities to charge a local tax of up to 3 percent on recreational marijuana sales in addition to the current 17 percent state tax.

Eleven counties and 100 cities, including the city of Hood River, passed local retail marijuana taxes during the November 2016 election.

The public brought up the idea of a marijuana tax back when the county was considering adding a general sales tax, said County Administrator Jeff Hecksel.

All funds collected from the tax would go straight into the general fund and help alleviate the county’s $1.6 million budget deficit.

Though the tax isn’t expected to bring a significant amount of revenue into the general fund, Hecksel said, “any little bit helps.”

The main goal of the tax, however, is to copy the City of Hood River’s existing retail marijuana tax, so retailers in the unincorporated county don’t have an advantage over retailers within the city limits, Hecksel said.

Also on the agenda for Monday’s BOCC meeting is a public hearing on a proposed forestland exchange with the Farmers Irrigation District, a nonprofit government agency that provides water to residential and agricultural users in the Hood River area.

The county requests that 39.73 acres of forest land and timber currently owned by Farmers be incorporated into the County Forest to compensate Hood River County for county land, timber and infrastructure that will be flooded and destroyed when Farmers embarks on an Upper Greenpoint Reservoir (Kingsley) expansion project. In exchange, the county will transfer the destroyed land, 19.15 acres, to Farmers.

Both properties are located near the reservoir currently being used as timberland.

“The point (of the exchange) is that it has to be of equal value,” Hecksel said, adding that a monetary exchange could be included as well.

Immediately after Monday’s hearing, the county commission will decide whether to authorize the exchange.

The Administration Building is located at 601 State Street, Hood River, and is open to the public.

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