Local marijuana taxes on the ballot next Tuesday

Voters in many Missouri cities and counties will see ‘Proposition M’ on their ballots next week.
Published: Mar. 30, 2023 at 6:28 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV) - Voters in many Missouri cities and counties will see ‘Proposition M’ on their ballots next week.

Many municipalizes are asking voters to approve an additional 3% tax on recreational marijuana, in addition to the 6% tax the state charges. The move is being met with criticism, both for potentially tax stacking and the advertising around it.

St. Louis City, County and St. Charles County are all posing the question to voters, in addition to many smaller cities in the area. It’s raised questions of tax-stacking, where multiple levels of government tax the same product, contrary to the Missouri Constitution.

It’s also something that marijuana distributors like BeLeaf Medical are wary of. CEO Jason Nelson says he isn’t against the tax, but says it could be a slippery slope long-term.

“It would put some of the onus on us as operators to consider reducing our our wholesale retail pricing... [so] we don’t risk losing folks back to an illicit market,” Nelson said.

BeLeaf says it is prepared to lower wholesale costs if the proposition passes in many places, to offset the cost for the customer. He says that’s a luxury many other distributors may not be able to afford.

Marijuana sales in Missouri surpassed $100 million in February, the first month of recreational sales in the state. Missouri voters approved recreational-use marijuana in late 2022, with a 6% state tax. Now, local governments want a piece of the pie too.

St. Louis County Executive Sam Page says it is needed cash to help them balance out the budget.

“We’ve been spending our reserve for the past 15 years for all of our expenses in the general fund, primarily for public safety,” Page said. “It’s time we replaced some of that money.”

St. Louis County estimates it will receive more than $3 million per year if the tax is approved. The money would go into the general fund, where it is not earmarked for a specific purpose. But they are connecting the tax with increased public safety funding in a board-approved ad campaign costing $300,000. Page says the largest pay-outs from the general fund go toward public safety.

“We make an assessment about whether the public would benefit from understanding better the information on the ballot,” Page said of the decision to run ads. “We think it was an important thing to do.”

St. Louis County already levies a general sales tax that goes directly to public safety. In 2017, ‘Proposition P’ passed in many Missouri jurisdictions.

Missouri’s taxes would still fall below neighboring states like Illinois, even with the increase.