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City places marijuana tax on April ballot

The words "Constitutional Amendment No. 3" standout from a yellow sample ballot.
Rebecca Smith
/
KBIA

Columbia voters will decide April 4 whether to allow the city to impose a 3% sales tax on retail sales of recreational marijuana.

The Columbia City Council unanimously approved the special election Tuesday.

The addition of a voter-approved 3% local sales tax is authorized by Amendment 3 to the Missouri Constitution, which took effect last month after voters statewide approved it in November. The local tax would be on top of the 6% state tax on recreational marijuana imposed by Amendment 3, but it would not apply to sales of medical marijuana.

If the proposition passes in April, the city tax would take effect Oct. 1, according to a memo from city staff.

The city has no estimate of how much revenue the tax might generate, according to the memo, because it is new to Columbia and there is no past data to reference. City Manager De’Carlon Seewood said it could take six months to get an idea of what the tax’s true financial impact might be.

Revenue generated by the city tax would help fund city services related to mental health, substance abuse treatment and other areas affected by the legalization of recreational marijuana, according to the staff memo. City Counselor Nancy Thompson said the city is anticipating additional costs from “marketing materials” related to marijuana.

“You need to produce health-related materials to caution folks as it relates to dangers of overdose, making sure that any kind of marijuana that they have purchased is kept in a secure location,” Thompson said.

Thompson added that there will also be increased costs related to training law enforcement to detect drivers who are under the influence of marijuana and ensuring the retail facilities are safe.

Anthony Stanton, board president of the Columbia Community Land Trust, spoke as an individual and called for the council to use the sales tax revenue for affordable housing within the city. He argued that although the recreational marijuana industry often increases property values within a city, it also increases rent prices and decreases affordable housing stock because it is still federally illegal.

Columbia resident Barbara Jefferson said the public needs to know exactly how the tax revenue will be used if this proposition is going to be on the April ballot. Because the language in the memo is non-binding, Thompson said the City Council will have to act as its own accountability mechanism to ensure the funds are spent in the way the ordinance outlines.

Voters across Boone County are also likely to see a 3% county sales tax on recreational marijuana on their April ballots. The Boone County Commission plans to approve a simply-worded proposition when it meets Thursday afternoon.

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick said revenue from that tax would go to the county’s general fund.

“I think it’s important for the commission to not tie strings in the ballot language to that funding, so you’re not tying the hands of future commissioners who may have a better understanding of what the priority should be for use of that sales tax collection in a future date,” Kendrick said.

But in the short-term, commissioners are considering using tax revenue to help offset the costs of expunging the records of people convicted of marijuana-related crimes. Kendrick said this would be “a natural use of the (county) sales tax revenue.”

“People understand the process to be automatic,” Kendrick said, “but from a processing side, that process is anything but automatic.”

That process is unfunded, as the revenue the state will begin collecting from its own tax on recreational marijuana sales is still not appropriated.

The City Council on Tuesday night also introduced ordinances that would tweak city codes regarding the licensing of marijuana-related businesses and to add them to the city’s zoning rules.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.