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Ravalli County commissioners set to discuss marijuana sales tax

Posted at 11:23 PM, Mar 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-10 15:47:54-05

HAMILTON — After rejecting the idea of reconsidering recreational marijuana shops, Ravalli County commissioners want to look at another tax idea.

Commissioners debated giving voters the option to reconsider Initiative 190 on Tuesday, allowing dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana.

The state law change had passed by just 2% in the Bitterroot, but commissioners said some people were having second thoughts after learning the state keeps the tax revenue.

"Basically, a lot of them are saying we voted for it because, of the ones I'm talking to, are saying I don't use this, so I don't really care, but I thought it would be a good thing to have all this revenue generated for our county," County Commissioner Jeff Burrows stated. "And once I understood that the state is gobbling up a majority of the revenue."

But Burrows pointed out 10 dispensaries have already set up shop in the Bitterroot, and the Republican commissioners opposed any "taking" of private investment already made.

"Even if I don't agree with what with the premise, I admire people that take that risk and go to the private sector and try to make a way," said Commissioner Dan Huls.

However, that position doesn't erase the commissioners' concerns about the costs that could stem from legal pot use, something that could be offset by imposing the 3% local sales tax option.

"I am very concerned about the cost to the County General Fund, the county taxpayer, general taxpayer, to absorb those costs," Commissioner Greg Chilcott said.

Sheriff Steve Holton told commissioners he's in favor of asking voters to consider the local sales tax option.

"I was here when medical marijuana dispensaries first started and I worked cases where we had aggravated kidnappings, burglaries, robberies, attempted homicide," Holton told commissoners. "When you have large volumes of money, especially cash, it's going to attract crime, and that's just a fact. We've seen it happen."

"That's my, you know frustration," Chilcott responded. "But the reality is. It's legal. It's legal statewide and absent this 3% it's clearly, potentially a budget buster for your office."

Huls feels the impacts will be there, given Missoula County's proximity as a location with legal sales.

"I think the law enforcement's gonna be handling whether We have it, or whether we don't.
Whether we sell it or don't."

Commissioners will meet Thursday at 3 p.m. to discuss whether to put the marijuana sales tax option on the June Primary ballot.