ST. LOUIS COUNTY, Mo. – A new legal battle is brewing over recreational marijuana in Missouri. The issue is tax “stacking.” County leaders in the St. Louis area want to stack the 3% local sales taxes that voters approved last week.
Berkeley voters approved a 3% marijuana sales tax, as did voters countywide in St. Louis County. The 3% local marijuana tax propositions passed almost everywhere; they were on the ballot last week by 3-to-1 margins, if not more.
County leaders take that to mean counties that passed the tax can stack their 3% on top of a city’s 3%. They want their cut.
“You can indeed stack them. It’s been verified and discussed legally throughout,” said Tim Brinker, Franklin County’s presiding commissioner. “It’s absolutely allowable to stack.”
St. Louis County and St. Charles County also reportedly plan to stack county and municipal recreational marijuana sales taxes, meaning the 3% rate voters approved will be 6% in most municipalities, from Berkeley in St. Louis County to St. Peters in St. Charles County to St. Clair in Franklin County.
However, the amendment to the Missouri Constitution legalizing recreational marijuana that voters approved in November defines local governments as cities or towns for incorporated areas and counties for unincorporated areas. The Missouri Cannabis Trade Association maintains that language means one can impose a local marijuana sales tax but not both.
“They trying to hone in on these smaller municipalities, which this bill was written not to do that. It definitely says no stacking,” said Tom Bommarito, who owns and operates multiple Greenlight dispensaries, including the Berkeley location.
If tax stacking is allowed, $100 worth of marijuana would cost $112 in Berkeley with the 6% state, 3% city, and 3% county taxes added. It would cost $109 in the City of St. Louis, where there’s just one 3% local tax. It would cost $106 at a dispensary in House Springs, Jefferson County, which currently has no local recreational marijuana sales tax.
“(Legalization) is for the benefit of us,” said Taariq David, a customer at Greenlight Dispensary. “Don’t stick it to (us). You’re going to make your money off of it. Just enjoy the 3% and be happy.”
He said in these inflationary times, people would shop for cheaper marijuana just like gasoline.
County leaders admit high taxes could push certain customers back to street dealers, but they’re not backing down with hundreds of millions of dollars now flowing into Missouri for legal recreational marijuana.
“Every million in sales equates to $30,000 for that taxing agency,” Brinker said.
“A legal battle is looming, it sounds like,” Bommarito said.
The new taxes are set to take effect in October.