marijuana

Deschutes County will now see marijuana tax revenue again thanks to a bill approved by the state Legislature this year.

The county has not received its share of the state’s marijuana tax revenue since 2019, when the Deschutes County Commission voted to prohibit new marijuana production and processing facilities. In the fall of 2020, residents voted to keep this moratorium by voting against a ballot measure that would have allowed new facilities in the rural part of the county.

But the state rule that governs how this money is allocated said a county must allow all licensed recreational marijuana activity in order to receive tax revenue, which meant once the county entered a moratorium on new processing and growing facilities, the county lost its right to the tax revenue.

House Bill 3295, which was sponsored by Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, and Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, changed this. The bill, which was designed to address Deschutes County’s unique circumstance, allows a county that bans a sector of the marijuana industry, after initially allowing it, a way to still receive tax dollars.

Now the county can receive tax revenue again from existing marijuana businesses, as long as the county creates a cannabis advisory panel.

The panel, which would be appointed by the County Commission, will recommend how the money is used. It will also be tasked with looking at ways to increase public safety around marijuana and talking about issues that crop up from the production and distribution of marijuana, according to the bill.

The panel must include two people who hold marijuana licenses in the county, someone from the Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office, a county commissioner, a watermaster, a county representative knowledgeable about economic development and a member of the public, according to county documents.

Commission Chair Tony DeBone raised some concerns about the panel, questioning what the commission would expect to receive from a group made from outside entities.

“We didn’t ask for this committee,” DeBone said Wednesday. “It was given to us by state law.”

Commissioner Phil Chang said he recognized this kind of panel is based on a model often found in Southwestern Oregon counties, and that it may not fit the needs of Deschutes County perfectly, but that it was worth doing if it meant getting marijuana tax revenue.

“I don’t have huge concerns about having to meet this requirement, and there could be value and benefit from having these kinds of discussions,” Chang said.

It’s unclear how much revenue the county can now receive from marijuana taxes, now that 72% of it will be redirected to fund the goals of Measure 110. An estimate done by the Department of Revenue last year showed that if the moratorium was not in place, the county would have received roughly $514,000 from December 2019 to September 2020.

The panel will need to be appointed and operating before the beginning of next year in order to be eligible for future tax revenue, according to Peter Gutowsky, the county’s planning manager.

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Reporter: 541-633-2160, bvisser@bendbulletin.com

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