COLUMBIA − Officials are weighing the pros and cons of a marijuana sales tax landing on the ballot in April.
Columbia voters will decide on a 3% marijuana tax. Boone County voters will also consider a 3% marijuana tax.
"We felt like it was important with so many municipalities making the decision at the same time to simplify it by doing it in a separate election," Kip Kendrick, the Boone County presiding commissioner, said.
Recreational marijuana sales already have a 6% tax rate, and medical purchases have a 4% tax rate. If both the Columbia and Boone County taxes are approved and stackable, the result would be a 12% tax on recreational marijuana. Whether the taxes are stackable remains unclear.
However, the downside lies in voters essentially giving themselves a sales tax.
"The sales tax, generally speaking, it's aggressive," Kendrick said. "Voters have to decide if this is a worthy 3% tax to help local governments."
Another downside, shared by Dan Viets, a local attorney, was the cost.
"Additional sales tax means consumers have to pay more for the products they buy and consume. An upside is that local governments will have more money to spend," Viets said.
Viets believes that voters should know exactly what they're voting for before it's presented on the ballot.
"Voters have a right to know what they're voting on. They ought to be told what the tax means," Viets said.
Kendrick told the Columbia Missourian that he estimates the county tax would generate $40,000 to $1 million per year, depending on whether the taxes are stackable.
He shared that the revenue coming from the county's sales tax would help with expungement efforts. Part of Amendment 3's provisions include expungements for marijuana-related offenses.
"The Boone County Commission intends to use that money to help pay for overtime and additional staffing needs as they arise," Kendrick said.
The current 6% sales tax primarily goes toward expungement efforts. The rest of the money is then used for veterans benefits, addiction treatment, and public defender systems.
The city of Columbia has estimated that in their first year of the tax alone, they would generate between $391,580 and $1,174,170 in revenue.
According to the city's website, the money would be placed in a general fund that would allocate 57% to public safety, 14% to administrative support, 10% to health and environment, 7% to parks, 6% to transportation, and another 6% to capital improvements.
Over 100 Missouri municipalities will have a marijuana tax question on the April ballot. Other states like Illinois also uphold a 3% tax on marijuana imports, exports, and sales.
Amy Fite, the general council for the Missouri Association of Prosecuting Attorneys, provides assistance in complex prosecutions as well as training to allied professional across the state.
Fite said people can make an educated decision in April by reading Amendment 3 in its entirety.
"They should research, utilize their access to the internet, and just read how the experience has been with other states who have done this," Fite said.
Fite suggests a cost-benefit analysis to review the financial benefit to the state and municipalities outside of the tax.
"You cannot look at how much we collected in sales tax. You're going to have to be able to balance that against whatever costs are associated with the implementation and any other long-term costs," Fite said.
The questions will appear on the ballot as Proposition 1. If the taxes are approved by voters, they would go into effect on Oct. 1.