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St. Louis County, City of Manchester officials maneuver for right to tax recreational pot

Manchester officials hope to expand city boundaries and absorb two marijuana retail stores. County Executive Sam Pages' administration called it a "money grab."

MANCHESTER, Missouri — With the start of legal recreational marijuana sales fast approaching, local government officials are jockeying for the position to reap sales tax revenues. 

When Missouri voters approved changes to the state constitution last fall, they created an option for local governments to assess a 3% sales tax on cannabis. The constitutional amendment only allowed one level of local government to collect the tax, leaving officials in St. Louis County and Manchester to squabble over which municipality would benefit from two pot shops that sit in disputed territory. 

Right now, Kind Goods and N' Bliss Dispensary sit just outside of Manchester city limits in unincorporated St. Louis County, but city officials are rushing to expand their borders and rope in that revenue before County Executive Sam Page can intervene. 

"This attempt at annexation by Manchester officials is about pot," Page's spokesman Doug Moore told 5 On Your Side. "City officials want to convince voters to pass a sales tax on recreational pot and reap the benefits from annexing two dispensaries that sit just outside the city limits. That is the real intent behind the annexation efforts - a money grab, plain and simple."

Mike Clement, the mayor of Manchester, says the city and the county's Boundary Commission have been preparing efforts to expand the city's eastern edges for years, and accuses Page of an "egregious" power play. 

"Dr. Page, let the work of the Boundary Commission be completed," Clement said in a direct appeal to the county executive Sunday afternoon. 

Clement claimed Page overstepped his bounds when he intervened to appoint two new members to the Boundary Commission after a vote to allow the annexation process caught him off guard. Two members who voted to allow Manchester's expansion were serving on expired terms at the time. 

"He had hopes that if he fired them, he could put two new members on and really overturn the initial vote," Clement said. 

Page, who has suggested the county faces a budget shortfall, has advocated for a local sales tax on recreational marijuana to bolster the government's balance sheet. If voters approve a 3% tax on marijuana sales in the county, those revenues would go into the county's general revenue fund and become available for the county to spend the funds in a variety of ways. 

"To somehow accuse us of seeking two very small dispensaries is kind of foolish," Clement said. "Really, what do you think those two are going to generate even if they did have a 3% tax? A couple thousand dollars a year in sales tax revenue?" 

An industry insider estimated the potential sales tax revenue could be much higher in the first year, and eventually could blossom into a stable stream of government income.

"That comes out to something like $115,000 per dispensary in new revenues," John Payne with Amendment 2 Consultants said. 

Payne, who helped engineer the successful ballot drive to legalize marijuana in Missouri, estimated once the medical pot shops get up and running in the recreational market, they'll eventually triple their total sales volume.   

"In that case, you'd be closer to $150,000 per location on a 3% local tax," he said.  

"This should be decided by voters and not Dr. Page," Clement reiterated. 

The County Council meets again on Tuesday night and could reconsider whether or not to seat Page's picks to the Boundary Commission.

The Boundary Commission is also scheduled to meet again Tuesday night and could decide whether to put the annexation question to voters in November. 

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