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Jefferson City Council adds the question of taxing marijuana to April ballot

by Anna Watson | January 4, 2023 at 4:03 a.m.
FILE - Michael Stonebarger sorts young cannabis plants at a marijuana farm operated by Greenlight, on Oct. 31, 2022, in Grandview, Mo. As of Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022, it is legal for adults to possess and use marijuana in Missouri. That does not mean you can legally buy it just yet, or use it everywhere. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Jefferson City voters in April will be asked whether they approve a citywide tax on recreational marijuana at 3 percent.

The Jefferson City Council unanimously approved a bill Tuesday, placing the question on the ballot for voters to answer on April 4. If approved, the tax would only account for purchases on recreational marijuana and not medical marijuana.

The state taxes medical marijuana at 4 percent currently, and it will impose a tax on recreational marijuana at 6 percent.

In November, voters passed Amendment 3, legalizing recreational marijuana for adults 21 years old or older. Since then, the city's legal team has been reviewing the amendment to determine what changes will occur locally as consumer marijuana emerges. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said in-state purchases could be available as soon as February.

Council members unanimously voted in favor of allowing residents to decide on having marijuana taxed after some discussion during its regular meeting at City Hall.

They circled back to dialogue held during the Dec. 19 meeting when the bill was first read and council members wondered: What did other cities plan to do, were other legal substances taxed locally, how many dispensaries can operate in city limits?

Councilman Jon Hensley said he is not in favor of a taxing "scheme" aimed at imposing additional costs to "vice products" or things like cigarettes or alcohol, but added: "I'll personally be in favor of this scheme tonight."

Hensley said he doesn't see a point in that type of scheme unless it is for raising additional revenue.

"For me personally, this was part of the advertised deal with this constitutional amendment," he said. "The voters should have their chance to vote on it."

Councilman Scott Spencer said on Dec. 19 he wondered whether a county that voted unfavorably for Amendment 3 would find a tax necessary.

On Tuesday, Spencer asked the city attorney Ryan Moehlman how many recreational dispensaries could possibly operate in the city.

"A local limit is imposed by state licensing, the chances of the licensing allowing for a very large number of dispensaries is pretty small," Moehlman responded.

The city currently has two medical marijuana dispensaries. The state department said it is currently only accepting applications for licensed medical marijuana dispensaries to become both medical and recreational sellers. This process includes applying to become a comprehensive facility. The soonest any dispensaries can get approval to become a comprehensive facility is February, the department said.

Spencer shared he would like any additional revenue received through a marijuana tax to be allocated to the departments that see a surge in work.

"I know we are always cautious about tying the hands of future councils, but I think it's pretty important to have a spirit of intent to have these revenue dollars going to those areas," he said.

Moehlman said from a staff perspective, money received from any tax allows the city to recoup costs related to a higher volume of work due to recreational use.

"We think it's appropriate, because some pretty new challenges are going to be placed on the city to help regulate and control the use of adult-use marijuana," Moehlman said in an earlier interview with the News Tribune.

Cole County is also able to bring the question of marijuana tax to the ballot. Moehlman said according to statistics from the industry, one dispensary could likely produce $150,000 of tax revenue annually if sales were as high as medical marijuana.

"I provided some additional information today, a very informal poll showing quite a few communities are doing this," Moehlman said. "Many, many cities are taking this question up, most seem to be doing it tonight."

Print Headline: City Council adds the question of taxing marijuana to April ballot


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