After a total of six public hearings resulting in hours of public feedback and heated discussion, three ordinances concerning psilocybin manufacturing, psilocybin service centers and a seasonal sales tax to support law enforcement, respectively, have been adopted by Josephine County and were formally referred to the voters by way of ballot measures Wednesday, Aug. 17.
Board Vice Chair Darin Fowler called the referrals as “a last hurdle” in the process of getting the long-contemplated measures on the November ballot.
County attorney Allison Smith was invited to speak at the Aug. 17 meeting. She took the lead on drafting the psilocybin ordinances.
“This resolution would approve the ordinance and the ballot measure and explanatory statement that would go to the voters at the November election,” said Smith.
Smith recounted that the two public hearings held on the resolutions took place July 27 and Aug. 10.
Regarding psilocybin, the questions being asked of voters are: “Shall the county allow psilocybin product manufacturing in the unincorporated territory of Josephine County and the city of Cave Junction” and “Shall the county allow psilocybin service centers in the unincorporated territory of Josephine County.”
The city of Cave Junction voted to opt in to a countywide prohibition on psilocybin manufacturing. However, the council chose to address psilocybin service centers independently of the county.
Currently, a two-year moratorium on psilocybin service centers is being weighed by the city, which could be lifted pending FDA approval of clinical psilocybin use or future research proving its effectiveness at treating mental health disorders.
Cave Junction voters would have to sign off on the moratorium.
Commissioner Dan DeYoung was puzzled when Smith pointed out that all county residents will be able to vote on these measures, even those in Grants Pass, which would not be affected by either measure.
The Grants Pass City Council has already voted to allow both production of and treatment with psilocybin within city limits, bypassing the input of voters.
“Even if all the citizens of Grants Pass proper voted against it, it’s still gonna be legal because of how the city council left it,” remarked Fowler.
He added that it would be “a little ironic” and “a message to the city council” if indeed the majority of Grants Pass residents vote against psilocybin legalization, effectively asserting they disagree with the council’s course of action.
“Kind of a quirk of this possibility,” added Fowler.
Moving onto LARAT, or Law Enforcement Retail Activities Tax, DeYoung explained, “Basically what it amounts to is this is referring to the voters the 3% sales tax on retail activities.
“We’ve had numerous meetings on this. We’ve had numerous forums on this, and we are still answering a lot of questions and public comments. But this right here is just a resolution saying we want to move it to the ballot.”
Fowler opined that the LARAT would “put us on the tip of the spear in the state of Oregon” for funding law enforcement.
DeYoung read the question that will be asked of voters: “Shall Josephine County tax most retail activity at a rate of 3% between April 15 and Oct. 15?”
Fowler pointed out that funds raised by the LARAT will be distributed to the sheriff’s office, Grants Pass Police Department and Cave Junction law enforcement according to population.
He also said that the Grants Pass City Council “boldly” pledged to reduce the city’s law enforcement levy from $1.79 per $1,000 assessed property value to $0.79 if the LARAT is approved.
“I was glad to see that they have been thoughtful about this and not been a knee-jerk no,” said Fowler.
“If you’re just hearing about this, don’t make a snap decision,” urged the board vice chair. “Get more information, call one of us commissioners, call the sheriff… If you need more information, we’ve got it.”
“I’m very, very excited about this to go to the voters and I am anxious to make the motion,” added DeYoung.
DeYoung did indeed make the motion to approve the resolution sending LARAT to the ballot, and it was unanimously approved.
Later in the meeting, a government agency agreement between the Josephine County Sheriff’s Office and Flock Group, Inc. for situational awareness solution for automatic license plates, video and audio detection was approved.
DeYoung said the funds to buy these automatic license plate readers was provided by the most recent Illegal Marijuana Market Enforcement Grant. A total of $58,850 will be spent to cover a two-year period of Flock’s services.