Columbia, Boone County seek marijuana sales tax revenue. State messages unclear on how it will be collected
When Missouri voters approved recreational marijuana it opened the door for municipalities and counties to seek sales taxes on those purchases.
So, Columbia and Boone County both will have ballot questions seeking voter approval of a 3% sales tax on recreational marijuana sales.
The state already collects a 6% sales tax on recreational purchases, but there are conflicting messages about whether the state, county and local taxes are stackable. In other words, will the true tax rate just be 6% or maybe even 9% or 12% depending on where one lives in Boone County.
While Columbia voters will vote both on the city and county tax question, the way the county is interpreting the tax is that its tax only applies to businesses in unincorporated portions of the county, said Boone County Presiding Commissioner Kip Kendrick.
Depending on what the final determination is from the Missouri Department of revenue that means there are two sellers in the county in unincorporated areas, leading to revenue estimates from the county of anywhere from $40,000 to $1 million.
The county initially plans to put its focus on processing record expungements with the revenue, Kendrick said, adding after that process concludes the county has left it open ended as to how future revenue is spent. The tax revenue is going to the general fund instead of toward a specific program.
The county has until June 8 to effect expungements on those with lesser drug charges. Those with older convictions or more complicated criminal charging where records may still be in paper documents are to be completed by Dec. 8, though Kendrick expects this process to go into next year. Staff have to parse out marijuana charges from other charges and convictions.
The city estimates revenue anywhere from $400,000 to $1 million, said Columbia Budget Officer Andrea Greer. The revenue from the city tax also would go into the city's general fund and general guidelines are focused on using the funds for public health, social initiatives and public safety.
"There have not been exact projects designated for that, but we do know those are the priorities," she said, adding it is hard to accurately determine revenue yet based on sales.
Depending on how the Department of Revenue puts out its guidance, the potential of a 12% sales tax feels like a sin tax potentially affecting low-income individuals hardest said one audience member directing a question at Greer and Kendrick.
Kendrick sees the expungements as a path forward for people who may be seeking a better job, but had the conviction hanging over their heads.
"Hopefully that will reduce some people's burdens and hopefully open up more doors for them," he said.
For the city, the revenue is generally planned to go into social service and public health programs that aid low-income individuals, Greer said, noting similar ballot initiatives are happening in a variety of municipalities across the region and state.
Charles Dunlap covers local government, community stories and other general subjects for the Tribune. You can reach him at email@example.com or @CD_CDT on Twitter. Subscribe to support vital local journalism.
This article originally appeared on Columbia Daily Tribune: Columbia, Boone County will have Marijuana tax questions on ballot