A proposal by a group of state lawmakers that would impose a 28 percent tax on marijuana sales— instead of the intended 12 percent outlined in last year’s ballot question—is bad policy. Not only does the proposal subvert the will of the electorate, which voted 54-46 last year to legalize pot sales in the state, but it would also serve to undermine the market by incentivizing the continuation of an illicit trade.
The Legislature has been trying to delay or defang the results of last year’s ballot measure by amending the law before it goes into full effect. It is already perfectly legal to grow a limited amount for personal use. The reforms being debated now relate to how the state will regulate the commercial sale of the plant products, including edibles.
The House committee’s plan, released Tuesday night, is more extreme than expected. One advocate for legalization characterized the proposal as a naked effort to repeal the law, adding: “We thought you wanted to damage or eliminate the black market, but instead you gave them reason to celebrate.”
While that assessment may be a bit hyperbolic, other lawmakers— including Somerville state Sen. Pat Jehlen, agree that the House plan will likely “maintain the black market.” She criticized the proposal and indicated that she’ll push back.
“The voters should be able to trust us not to more than double the tax rate that they voted for,” Jehlen told the State House News Service.
Another proposed revision is perhaps just as troubling. Under the House plan, a city council or board of selectmen could simply vote to ban marijuana shops in their town without a local referendum, as called for in the ballot question. That could have the effect of concentrating sales in certain places, including city neighborhoods.
The Legislature has a legitimate role to play in fine tuning laws, including those passed through petition initiatives. But why not allow the law— as written— to kick into effect and then, after a reasonable amount of time to assess its impacts, make adjustments?
We agree with proponents like Jim Borghesani, the longtime pro-legalization advocate, who said yesterday: “Its irrational tax increase will give drug dealers the ability to undercut the legal market, and its removal of authority from local voters will give a handful of selectmen the ability to overrule the opinion of their own constituents.”
He’s right. Let’s get this show on the road. Keep the 12 percent tax, give voters in individual towns and municipalities the ability to advise and consent on pot shops, and stop throwing up unnecessary hurdles to a drug that is now legal to possess and use in Massachusetts.
Tap into Uphams Corner on June 20
Uphams Corner Main Streets (UCMS) will host its annual fundraiser on Tues., June 20, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Kroc Center at 650 Dudley St. The Innovation in Uphams Corner event raises money to support the Main Street’s district, but it’s also a chance for residents, volunteers, financial supporters, and elected officials to meet local entrepreneurs and add input into new development ideas.
Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative will have a table set up to solicit input on the future use of the Citizens Bank building on Columbia Road— an important, unresolved issue in the business district.
For additional information and to RSVP, visit uphamscorner.org.