Cities in Missouri now have the chance to profit from marijuana sales because it is legal to use it recreationally. If adopted, Kansas City Mayor Quinton Lucas plans to spend an additional 3% in tax revenue to tackle some of the area’s most pressing problems. A number of the metro cities, including Kansas City, are debating whether to put the tax on the ballot on April 4.
In November, Missouri voters approved a measure legalizing recreational marijuana. As a result, the state started collecting a 6% sales tax to pay for Marijuana monitoring initiatives and to erase earlier marijuana-related charges from records. The city tax would increase the cost of recreational marijuana by 3% if it were to pass.
According to Lucas, if council members and voters approve, he plans to use those tax proceeds to provide long-term support for three pressing issues that have long been underfunded yet continue to be important to his constituents:
- Cleaning up illegal dumping
- Addressing homelessness
- Funding violence prevention programs
At first, Lucas thought about using some of the money to pay for the amendment’s enforcement. But he asserted that for the time being, more enforcement of marijuana sales enterprises should be covered by the city’s regulated industries department’s existing budget allocation, just like additional enforcement of liquor regulation.
Later, Lucas claimed they settled on the most recent strategy after receiving recommendations from other members of his team, such as deputy chief of staff Melissa Johnson and policy director Ann Jordan. It demonstrates our genuine commitment to social justice, mental health, and the need to not only discuss the causes of these problems but also to provide financing for solutions. I don’t think we’ve done enough of it over the years, according to Lucas, who spoke to The Star.
Longtime residents of Kansas City have lamented the eyesore of unlawful dumping throughout the city, especially in underserved districts and along main thoroughfares. According to a city audit published in April, it typically took the Public Works Department 24 days after receiving a notice to clean up an unlawful dumping site.
The audit also revealed that homeowner satisfaction with the cleanup of unlawful dumps was at an all-time low. In keeping with the city’s long-term climate aims, Lucas plans to use some of the income for community cleanups.
Taking Care of Homelessness
Advocates for the homeless bemoaned the paucity of emergency shelters in Kansas City last summer, which had been made worse by an increase in the number of homeless persons in previous years. Jennifer Hull, a contractor and volunteer street outreach worker in Kansas City for the past few years, told The Star one hot July day when every shelter bed for families, transitional youth, unaccompanied youth, domestic violence survivors, and single females was full, “There are no spots for children, women, and children, single women, people with disabilities, or our elderly.”
According to local officials, emergency low barriers to enter shelters will enable more individuals to get the urgent safety they need by removing many of the prerequisites and conditions that are already in place for entry into shelters. Now Lucas is putting out a financial idea: allocating a portion of marijuana tax money to low-barrier emergency shelters.
“While Kansas City has experienced several setbacks, many other cities have been successful in achieving that. Cost is one of them, he told The Star on Monday. While expanding the availability of emergency shelters is a high priority, Lucas also wants to use some of the funds to support services like mental health and other types of care that the city hasn’t been able to afford via its general revenue stream.
With 171 murders, including three fatal police shootings, 2022 was Kansas City’s second-worst year in recorded history. This was the city’s third consecutive year of horrifying bloodshed. Experts have claimed that up until recently, a thorough and cooperative strategy that is well-funded and engages various stakeholders remained elusive in Kansas City.
But by the end of 2022, municipal officials claimed to have found a solution, citing a local victim-witness relocation program and a new violence intervention initiative called Partners for Peace, among other ongoing joint initiatives. But despite so many local anti-violence officials coming together under one roof for the first time in a long time, including the mayor’s office, the prosecutor’s office, and the police department, funding is still in question.
Johnson predicted Partners for Peace would require between $2 and $3 million yearly to begin when she spoke with The Star in late 2022. She was going to ask for the money to come out of the general fund of the city. Lucas now aims to close the financing gap with the proceeds from the marijuana tax, which he also expects will go to youth-oriented programs and Aim4Peace, another anti-violence initiative with a shaky financial future.
So that “we can actually start to do something more than merely turning up at crime scenes after problems have already occurred,” he said, the money would ultimately go toward tackling retribution, preventative and intervention initiatives, mentorship, and conflict resolution programs for young people. He thinks that by establishing a steady source of money, the city can demonstrate its commitment to long-term violence reduction.
If the tax is approved, the mayor’s office predicts that it will bring in an average of $6.5 million a year in its first few years, with $3 million coming in the first year and $10 million by the fifth. According to Lucas, these figures are based on data from Denver and Portland; however, if recreational marijuana use is legalized in Kansas, that might potentially have an impact on the estimates.
He plans to allocate $1.5 million to initiatives to avoid violence in the first year, as well as $750,000 each for the prevention of homelessness and the management of solid waste. The mayor’s office anticipates that by year five, funding will increase to $5 million for violence prevention and $2.5 million each for homelessness and cleanup initiatives.
Lucas claimed that regardless of the final sums, the income would imply some form of consistent funding that wouldn’t need to be negotiated from the general fund every year. He remarked, “I think that just makes sense.” The Special Committee for Legal Review will hear the proposed ordinance from Lucas at 1:30 on Tuesday.
It might be put to a vote before council members as early as Thursday if the committee approves it. A question regarding the tax will be put on the ballot in April if it is approved by the council by January 24. According to Lucas, the tax funds might become available as early as the end of 2023 if voters approve them.