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Columbia City, Boone County marijuana taxes pass

Voters in Columbia and across Boone County approved two 3% taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana in Tuesday’s election.

Both the city and county measures passed despite confusion across the state about whether marijuana taxes are stackable in local government jurisdictions that overlap.

In Columbia, voters approved the tax by a vote of 12,165, or 67.9%, in favor to 5,757, or 32.1% against. The county proposition passed with 17,990 yes votes, or 68.1%, 8,439 no votes, or 31.9%.

Columbia officials have estimated a 3% sales tax on recreational marijuana sold within the city limits would generate from $400,000 to $1 million per year for the city government’s general fund. City Council members have said they intend to use the money for educational efforts, substance abuse treatment and police officer training, but future councils will not be bound by that decision.

Boone County Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick has estimated the 3% tax in the county would generate about $40,000 per year, but that could jump as high as $1 million if the city and county taxes are both imposed at dispensaries inside Columbia. The county, he has said, probably will collect the tax revenue on sales in the city and set it aside in case it has to return it later.

The county also plans to place the new revenue in its general revenue fund but early on would use it to offset the cost of expunging court records of marijuana convictions.

The Missouri Department of Revenue has told local government leaders that it will offer no guidance on whether city and county taxes are stackable, given that language in Article XIV of the Missouri Constitution, which voters approved as Amendment 3 on the November ballot, can be interpreted either way. It has said the matter probably will have to be settled by the courts.

Most of the voters who discussed the marijuana tax measures with the Missourian supported them.

“I think the tax issues with the marijuana is pretty self-evident that we should probably be taxing that a little extra,” attorney James Owen, who voted Tuesday morning at Fairview Road Church of Christ, said.

Gordon March, a retired union carpenter who also cast his ballot at the Fairview church, said we “need taxes to support our communities.”

“We have always had sin taxes, if it's alcohol or tobacco or other things,” March said. “Our society has always felt that those can bear an extra burden of tax. They're not necessities. Nobody needs them. In some cases, like tobacco, the taxes couldn't even pay for the damage. Marijuana, who knows? Probably less harmful, but we don't know in the long term with heavy societal use.”

Matt Kitzi, a lawyer who voted at the Elks Lodge, said it’s important that a growing city have a variety of revenue sources. He supported taxes on recreational marijuana.

"This is another way to increase that tax base while allowing for needed services,” Kitzi said. “I like that the tax is only on recreational marijuana and not on medical. It's a lot of tax, but it's on a very specific, narrow product and will be very apparent and not a hidden tax for folks who use it."