ONTARIO — Ontario voters will decide in November the fate of an initiative seeking to lift the ban of marijuana sales, in its entirety, including allowing marijuana businesses in Ontario, imposing the business licensing provisions of the initiative, and also allowing the city to collect the 3 percent tax.
The Ontario City Council voted unanimously on Tuesday during a special meeting to reject the initiative; the entire initiative is now up for vote during the November ballot as a single measure.
It should be noted that a rejection of the initiative doesn’t mean the initiative won’t be able to go forward, a fact that Ontario Mayor Ron Verini reminded the crowded council chambers shortly before the vote.
In fact, the resolution that was approved by the council reads: “Resolution #2018-132: A resolution Rejecting Initiative #11-2018-2-I so as to Allow City of Ontario Voters to Vote on the Initiative at the November 6, 2018, General Election.”
The purpose of the meeting was to review the measure and “act upon one of three options: adopt the Initiative as presented; reject the Initiative, but take no other action; or reject the Initiative and refer a competing Measure to the ballot.
According to an email from Ontario city attorney Larry Sullivan to the city council clarifying the purpose of the meeting, “Adopting the initiative would mean agreeing to amend the Municipal Code provisions that currently ban marijuana businesses to allow those businesses and to impose the business licensing requirements of the initiative. This portion of the initiative could be adopted by the Council without an election.”
So had the city council adopted the initiative on Tuesday evening, instead of rejected it, then the ban on marijuana would have officially been lifted.
The 3 percent tax on marijuana goods, however, is a different story.
State law regarding marijuana prevents the city from adopting a 3 percent tax on marijuana goods without an election, so that portion of the initiative would have remained on the ballot in November even if the council had adopted the initiative on Tuesday.
The initiative in question, Initiative Petition 11-2018-2-I, had 853 signatures verified by the Malheur County clerk last week out of the petition’s total of 1,860 the group spearheading the petition, MalheurCAN!, managed to collect. Only 825 signatures needed to be verified.