(The Center Square) – Missouri would have one of the nation’s lowest tax rates on recreational marijuana under two pieces of legislation being debated in the House of Representatives.
House Joint Resolution 83, sponsored by Rep. Shamed Dogan, R-Ballwin, would tax the suggested retail price of marijuana at 12% for personal use and 4% for medical use. House Bill 2704, sponsored by Rep. Ron Hicks, R-Defiance, also legalizes recreational marijuana and sets a tax rate not to exceed 12%.
The state of Washington has the highest recreational marijuana tax at 37%, according to a report by the Tax Foundation. New York has a 9% excise tax on the retail price. Maine, Michigan and Nevada have a 10% excise tax.
“I, personally, would like to see it higher than 12,” Rep. Ron Copeland, R-Salem. The former Missouri State Trooper of 28 years said during a hearing on Dogan’s bill before the Special Committee on Criminal Justice on Tuesday that “you’re going to have a lot of residual issues that come along with the recreational use. I’m not bad-mouthing it, but I know there are some issues there. I want to be in the sweet spot for taxation because I fear if you make it too high, people will opt out and go to the black market.”
Hicks’ bill was passed out of the Public Safety Committee by a 5-4 vote on Monday and was referred to the Rules-Legislative Oversight Committee.
Dogan’s bill would create the “Smarter and Safer Missouri Fund” for tax revenues from recreational marijuana. Funds would be distributed to the Missouri Veterans Commission, the Missouri Department of Transportation for infrastructure, the expansion of broadband and drug treatment programs, including drug treatment courts.
“The bill also provides for the automatic release from prison of anyone who’s been convicted of nonviolent, marijuana-only offenses,” Dogan said. “It grants automatic expungement of marijuana-only offenses so that those folks would be able to get their lives back and not have to face barriers to employment or housing that come from having a criminal record.”
Hicks’ bill creates the “Cannabis Freedom Fund” and distributes, after administrative costs, 10% to the deputy sheriff salary supplementation fund, 10% to the peace officer standards and training commission fund, 10% to the state fire marshal for grants to volunteer fire protection associations for funding workers’ compensation insurance premiums, 15% for a work training program, 5% to provide assistance with small business loans for the recreational marijuana industry and the remaining amount to general revenue.
Dogan emphasized the simplicity of his bill was important, and noted no one testified in opposition to the bill. However, the Missouri State Medical Association, the Missouri Association of Osteopathic Physicians and Surgeons and the Missouri Catholic Conference filed written testimony in opposition to the bill.