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Springfield City Council likely to put recreational marijuana sales tax on August ballot

Springfield, Missouri's Historic City Hall, photographed Aug. 9, 2022.
Gregory Holman/KSMU
Springfield, Missouri's Historic City Hall, photographed Aug. 9, 2022.

Springfield City Council is poised to ask voters to approve a 3-percent sales tax on recreational marijuana later this summer.

In recent April elections, big Missouri cities including St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia approved new 3-percent sales taxes on adult-use cannabis sales.

Those new taxes are allowed under the recreational marijuana amendment to the state constitution. Voters approved it back in November.

Springfield City Council on Monday held a special meeting where they debated if Springfield would follow the other three big cities in imposing a new local marijuana tax.

Council told the city attorney to draft an emergency bill they plan to consider at their May 22 meeting. If passed by the May 30 ballot deadline, it would send the question to voters at the August 8 election.

After some debate over the exact wording, Council decided they want the ordinance to require that money collected from the tax would go toward public safety, housing, mental health and drug/alcohol treatment. These were key priorities the city identified when it surveyed residents on how to spend federal coronavirus bailout money.

Councilman Brandon Jenson advocated for at least 50 percent of the funds collected by the new tax to be used to address homelessness, but council decided against using percentage figures to prioritize spending. They decided to refer to homelessness issues with the term "housing."

If voters approve the tax in August, the city is likely to start receiving recreational weed tax revenues in January or April of next year, depending on when election results are certified. It's not clear how much money might come into city coffers if voters adopt the tax: Council discussed an estimate of $1.3 million per year, but City Manager Jason Gage said he thought revenues could be two or three times greater.

Council debated whether the 3-percent tax might be "stackable," should Greene County also seek sales tax approval from voters. City Attorney Rhonda Lewsader told Council her assessment is that the "plain language" of the state's recreational marijuana amendment would allow "stackable" sales taxes on recreational cannabis, though there has been "discussion" among lawyers — and it could come down to a court fight.

Supporters of the recreational cannabis amendment previously said that they think "stackable" sales taxes on recreational marijuana aren't allowed by Missouri's new law.

"Attempts by some Missouri counties to stack these taxes are unconstitutional and bad for cannabis customers," marijuana industry spokesperson Jack Cardetti told Ozarks Public Radio last month, not long after council approved limits on recreational cannabis within Springfield city limits.

Gregory Holman is a KSMU reporter and editor focusing on public affairs.