On Tuesday, voters in Gallatin County overwhelmingly approved a local option sales tax for recreational and medical marijuana. Now, an oversight issue puts the election results in limbo.
“It could mean that we might have to re-run that election,” said Gallatin County Clerk and Recorder Eric Semerad.
An oversight by Semerad's office leaves the marijuana tax questions in limbo.
“A statutory notice that is required for that, that is just specific to the marijuana issue, was not published,” Semerad said.
A notice of election was not posted within the 30-45 day time frame before the election was set to take place.
“I did publish it, I just published it late,” Semerad said.
This comes after MTN News reported Wednesday morning about a possible issue that could affect the certification. In a statement to MTN News, Gallatin County Communications Coordinator Whitey Bermes said:
“The commission was made aware of possible issues with the public notice of the two marijuana tax ballot questions that could affect their certification. The commission will address this at their election canvas on June 20th. This issue won't affect anything else on the ballot- only potentially the two marijuana tax questions.”
Unofficial returns show that 77 percent of Gallatin County voters approved the local option sales tax on recreational marijuana with 19,062 votes in support, and 5,537 votes against. The medical marijuana tax passed with a closer margin: 13,803 voters in favor and 10,643 voting against.
Now that remains up in the air following the oversight issue. A local business owner wants more clarification from the county as to where the money would go.
“So far we haven't heard from the county about what they are going to use the money for,” said Elliot Lindsey, owner of Grizzly Pine dispensary.
In February, Gallatin County Commissioner Joe Skinner said that the commission would want to use the tax revenue for mental health services but didn't want to tie future commissions' hands.
“As a business person I look at all of the tax revenue as potential investment,” said Lindsey.
Lindsay says that while the 3 percent tax isn't much, it still adds up when it comes to paying for the product.
“Incrementally, yeah we are seeing more customers questioning why the product is so expensive,” Lindsey said.
So what happens next? The question of whether or not the two marijuana tax ballot measures are void will be decided on June 20. MTN News will continue to follow this story as it develops.