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Over $500K up in smoke as St. Louis misses recreational marijuana tax deadline

A dispensary employee loads a bag of cannabis for a customer.
Will Bauer
St. Louis Public Radio
Charles Unger, general manager at Greenlight Marijuana Dispensary, bags cannabis products at his store in February in south St. Louis.

After missing a deadline that passed months ago that would have allowed the start of a 3% tax on recreational marijuana, city officials received approval to instead start collecting the tax in January.

The city planned to begin charging the levy on Oct. 1 but could only do so if officials had notified the state Department of Revenue within the appropriate window of time after the sales tax was approved by voters in April, said Nick Dunne, a spokesman for St. Louis Mayor Tishaura Jones.

State law requires municipalities to send in the required documents within 10 days of voters approving any new sales tax. In April, more than 40 cities and four counties in the St. Louis area passed a 3% sales tax on recreational marijuana.

The mayor’s office resolved the issue last week and received a waiver from the Department of Revenue that will allow the 3% tax to begin in January, Dunne said.

The missed deadline was an oversight, he added.

“While state law does not specifically define who is responsible for submitting the required documents to the Department of Revenue, the bottom line is that St. Louis will be precluded from collecting the additional 3% sales tax on cannabis products.

“That is unacceptable,” Dunne said in an emailed statement. “Moving forward, we will be clearly defining the lines of responsibility so that no sales tax revenue from future sales tax measures is missed.”

The mayor’s office declined to provide an estimate on potential loss of revenue, pointing to the fact that this was a new tax. But Alderwoman and budget committee chair Cara Spencer said the city may lose out on more than $500,000.

“The state had a deadline that we missed,” Spencer said. “It’s just really unfortunate.”

Three St. Louis-area municipalities voted earlier this month to approve the 3% sales tax on recreational marijuana. Voters in the cities of Arnold, St. Charles and St. John all voted for the tax, joining a plethora of cities and counties that approved the tax in April.

Lacretia Wimbley is a general assignment reporter for St. Louis Public Radio.