Where the money is going

• $34 million to the state school fund

• $17 million to the Mental Health, Alcoholism and Drug Services Account

• $17 million to Oregon cities and counties

• $12 million to the Oregon State Police

• $4 million to the Oregon Health Authority

The law lays out how the money will continue to be distributed:

• 40 percent to the Common School Fund

• 20 percent to mental health, drug and alcohol treatment programs

• 15 percent to the Oregon State Police

• 10 percent to cities for local law enforcement

• 10 percent to counties for local law enforcement

• 5 percent to the Oregon Health Authority

Source: Oregon Department of Revenue

The first distributions of nearly $85 million in marijuana tax revenues are already on the way to help fund police, battle addiction and beef up the coffers of cities and counties across Oregon.

The marijuana revenue will be channeled to such services and agencies as: the Common School Fund; the Mental Health, Alcoholism and Drug Services Account; the Oregon State Police; the Oregon Health Authority; and Oregon’s cities and counties. All distributions were complete last week,
according to a press release from the Oregon Department of Revenue.

While Union County opted out of the sale of recreational marijuana, the state may still give the municipalities some money. So far, no check has been received, though.

Between Jan. 4, 2016, and Aug. 31, 2017, the Department of Revenue collected $108.6 million in state and local marijuana taxes, of which $94.55 million was eligible for distribution. Local taxes collected by the department on behalf of cities and counties are distributed to them quarterly.

At last week’s work session, the Union County Commissioners talked about the marijuana issue once more and ultimately decided to hold hearings to find out whether it is something residents in the unincorporated portions of Union County want on the ballot.

“Realistically, I’d still like to see the voters get involved,” Commissioner Jack Howard said.

He said marijuana will continue to be sold illegally in the county until it is legalized.

“We’re sticking our heads in the sand. Cities need to get involved with this,” Howard said.

Commissioner Steve McClure agreed the reality is that marijuana is here and discussing it again may be in the best interest of everyone.

“We could have a series of public meetings,” McClure said. “I was opposed to it originally, but I’m with you now.”

Elgin City Councilor Kathy Warren told the commissioners the black market is rampant in Elgin. She said when one dealer is arrested, another one comes to replace them.

“If (legalizing marijuana) would help get rid of the black market and keep our kids safe, then maybe it’s a good idea,” Warren said. “We need to regulate it, though. There have to be actual consequences when someone deals it illegally.”

Commissioner Donna Beverage said businesses are struggling to find new employees who can pass a drug test now that marijuana is legal. She said she’s asked neighboring counties that have legalized recreational marijuana about the effects of legalizing it. She said the commissioners are saying it hasn’t had positive effects for law enforcement.

See complete story in Monday's Observer