Montana: Lake County voters to consider local marijuana tax

The Lake Country Leader reports

With the legal sale of recreational marijuana set to begin Jan. 1 across Montana, Lake County residents are being asked to weigh in on whether to impose a local tax to benefit county and city governments.

Lake County commissioners on Monday unanimously approved a resolution to hold a special election to determine whether a local-option tax of 3% will be implemented beginning in July. Commissioners produced the resolution after the county’s three municipal governments — Polson, Ronan and St. Ignatius — agreed to hold the vote and contribute to the cost of the election.

The county estimates local governments could collectively take in $180,000 annually if voters approve the tax. That number was derived by taking a Missoula estimate and adjusting for population, so actual revenue could be much higher or lower.

The county will hold a public hearing on marijuana sales in January, and the special election is expected to occur in early April. If approved, the tax would go into effect July 5 to coincide with the start of a new fiscal year.

After deciding to seek approval for a local marijuana tax, commissioners also had to decide whether to apply the same tax to recreational and medicinal sales. They settled on a ballot with separate questions regarding medicinal and recreational sales. Commission Chairman Bill Baron said he favored addressing the two types of sales as one. However, commissioners Gayle Decker and Steve Stanley supported the two-question ballot.

“We’ve said it’s about the money,” Baron said Monday. “If it’s about the money, we should just treat them the same.”

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