MISSOULA — The Missoula County commissioners are seeking public comment as they determine whether to adopt a resolution to hold a special election for voters to consider a 3% local-option tax on marijuana sales.
The first public hearing on the issue will be at the commissioners' public meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday, July 1 in the Sophie Moiese Room of the Missoula County Courthouse, and participants can also join remotely.
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House Bill 701, passed by the Legislature and signed by the governor earlier this year, allows for the operation of marijuana businesses and taxation of retail sales in Montana counties where a majority of voters approved Initiative 190, which legalized the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use in Montana.
In Missoula County, 70% of voters approved I-190 in the 2020 general election. HB 701 authorizes counties to adopt a resolution placing a local-option marijuana excise tax of up to 3% on the ballot.
According to a news release, if voters approve the ballot measure, the tax would go into effect 90 days later and would apply to all marijuana and marijuana products sold at adult-use dispensaries and medical marijuana dispensaries in the county.
As of May 7, there were 48 marijuana dispensaries in Missoula County registered with the Montana Department of Health and Human Services. County officials note that current projections, based on a report issued by the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, estimate the tax would generate around $716,100 annually.
Missoula County would retain 50% of the revenue, 45% would go to the City of Missoula and the remaining 5% would go to the Montana Department of Revenue to defray costs associated with administering the tax. City of Missoula administrations will ask City Council members to adopt a resolution of support for the measure in the coming weeks.
Revenue from the tax may be used for any activity including costs that result from imposing the tax or due to administrative burdens imposed as a result of licensing or regulatory requirements.
Although City and County officials are still considering what the revenue could go toward, options being explored include using a percentage to offset property taxes, as well as funding community needs like the mobile crisis unit and preventing homelessness, according to the news release.
Members of the public can submit comments at a public meeting, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (406) 258-4877. Commissioners will take constituent comments until their administrative public meeting at 10 a.m. Tuesday, July 6, when they will vote on whether to approve the resolution.
If approved, the countywide special election would be held either on Tuesday, Sept. 14, in conjunction with the potential Missoula municipal primary election, or on Tuesday, Nov. 2, in conjunction with the municipal general election.