By Kristin Palpini
The late-Wednesday delay of the House vote on recreational marijuana legislation signals politicians are taking weed — and the up-coming weed tax — seriously.
The House bill would have levied up to a 28 percent tax rate on recreational sales, though opponents of the bill said language politicians have since called a “drafting error,” would allow for up to a 55 percent tax rate.
The state’s own Marijuana Policy Committee would not stand behind the bill.
“This proposed bill directly assaults the will of the voters and is a prescription for increasing the illicit market,” for marijuana, said Sen. Patricia Jehlen, a Somerville Democrat who co-chaired the committee.
The law Massachusetts voters passed in November calls for a maximum of a 12 percent tax rate, which includes taxes for excise, sale, and local option.
The proposed House legislation calls for a 16.75 percent excise tax on top of the regular sales tax and a 5 percent local tax, for a combined 28 percent tax.
Speaker Robert DeLeo said the law still needs “cleaning up” before a vote is taken. The measure was scheduled to go before the House for a vote today, June 15.
That the government wants to tax the hell out of weed is no surprise. In 2016, the Senate’s Special Commission on Marijuana drafted a report that made estimates of $50-$60 million in new tax revenue based on a high reefer tax. In the report, the Senate proposed a marijuana excise tax of 5-15 percent on growers, a pot sales tax of 10-20 percent on retailers, and permission for an additional local option sales tax of up to 5 percent. All told, that could mean a total state and local tax of up to 40 percent.
It’s tempting to gouge marijuana enthusiasts, but that’s just setting Massachusetts up for failure. If legal marijuana prices aren’t competitive with street nugs, which are easy to obtain, then the law won’t stymie the black market — it will provide a blanket under which hustlers can better hide their business.
DeLeo said a vote on a reworked marijuana law will likely be up for a vote the week of June 19.
Kristin Palpini can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.