Massachusetts lawmakers are expected to vote Thursday on a bill that would more than double the total tax on adult-use cannabis sales and give municipal officials the power to ban cannabis business operations rather than local voters, according to a Boston Globe report. The bill would raise the tax from 12 percent – as approved by voters – to 28 percent.
The core of the measure would remain intact. Adults 21 and older would still be permitted to possess, purchase, and consume cannabis, and grow up to 12 plants per household. However, the voter-approved bill had called for a 3.75 percent state tax and a 2 percent local-option tax on top of the state’s 6.25 percent sales tax. The proposal by Rep. Mark Cusack, a Democrat, raises the state-imposed cannabis tax rate to a whopping 16.25 percent, paired with a mandatory 5 percent local tax and the 6.25 percent sales tax. Medical cannabis sales would remain untaxed.
“The voters voted to allow people 21 years of age and above to be able to access a regulated and safe marketplace. That is exactly what this bill does,” Cusack said in the report. “The ballot question is fundamentally flawed.”
Additionally, the legislation would strip Treasurer Deborah Goldberg of her cannabis industry oversight, restrict some edible products, and set limits on cannabis advertising.
The proposal drew the ire of advocates and state Sen. Patricia Jehlen, co-chair of the marijuana committee, who said the tax rate and the changes to how municipalities can ban cannabis operations undermine the will of the voters.
“Both will preserve the illicit market,” she said.
The measure moves to remove Goldberg’s power over a three-person Cannabis Control Commission and instead would add two chairs to the commission appointed by public officials. The treasurer, the governor, and the attorney general would each appoint a commissioner. The other two would be appointed by a majority vote of the three.
The House will likely vote on the bill tomorrow, and if approved it will head to the Senate. Legal sales are still expected to begin July 2018.