10 Ozarks cities/counties deciding marijuana sales taxes on August 8 ballot

Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 7:01 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - More than 100 cities or counties in Missouri have already done it.

In the August election, several more will be looking to get their piece of the pie in a billion-dollar industry still in its infancy.

Recreational marijuana in Missouri is already taxed at a six-percent rate at the state level. But the Constitutional Amendment that legalized the new industry also allows for local governing bodies to put to a vote of the people an additional three-percent sales tax, and many cities and counties jumped on that opportunity in April with most of the measures passing. St. Louis, Kansas City, and Columbia were among the successful cities, with Springfield left as the largest city in the state not to have a local marijuana sales tax.

But that could change on August 8 as voters will go to the polls in Springfield to decide on the measure, which specifically says that if the new tax is passed (generating an estimated $1.8 million per year), the money would only be used to fund public safety, mental health, substance abuse, and housing.

“As we think about marijuana and drugs in general and what services could be affected, those four items were connected by that common thread,” said Springfield City Manager Jason Gage when the decision was made as to where the money would go.

But Springfield isn’t the only place in the Ozarks with a local marijuana sales tax on the ballot.

Taney County and four towns within the county, Branson, Hollister, Forsyth, and Rockaway Beach, will consider the tax, as well as Dallas County and its county seat Buffalo. St. Robert and Waynesville will also be asking voters to decide on whether or not to collect a local sales tax on pot products.

The prospect of having counties and the towns within those counties both having marijuana sales taxes has created some confusion.

Does that mean marijuana sold in those areas will be double-taxed with an extra six percent charged instead of three percent?

That method is called “stacking,” and in conversations with two attorneys who were both involved in drafting the language of the amendment that established recreational marijuana, the “stacking” approach is not allowed under state law.

“If the dispensary is within the city limits, then only the city should be permitted to collect that tax,” explained Dan Viets of Columbia.

“On the other hand, if the dispensary is located in the county, the city cannot collect the tax, but the county can,” said Chip Sheppard of Springfield. “It was not our intent to allow stacking, and we expressly prohibited that in the Constitution.”

But not everyone views it that way in an industry still getting its footing and producing huge amounts of money.

“If there are efforts to stack those taxes and collect both a county and city three-percent tax, I expect the matter is going to be litigated,” Viets said.

“Like in St. Louis where you have over 100 municipalities, and St. Louis County is trying to stack,” Sheppard pointed out. “They’ll probably all bind together and file a lawsuit, and it will probably head to the Missouri Supreme Court at some point.”

Viets was asked if those responsible for the recreational marijuana constitutional amendment are backing one side or the other.

“We’re not opposed to local governments collecting a three-percent sales tax,” Viets said. “We invited them to do that when we drafted Article 14. The only thing we’re opposed to is stacking to where the state, county, and city taxes would add up to 12 percent. We think that is too high, and if we raise the taxes too much, more people are going to be tempted to purchase their cannabis in an illegal market which defeats the major purpose of legalization in the first place.”

“If the marijuana sold at dispensaries gets too expensive, it just drives people to go back and meet the back-alley drug dealer who has other kinds of drugs like meth, opioids, and things that are highly addictive and dangerous,” added Sheppard. “And they have marijuana that’s not been tested. You don’t know if it’s got Fentanyl in it or some other pesticide or herbicide that could be carcinogenic. Every bit of the marijuana sold at dispensaries has been tested and approved by independent testing facilities.”

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