Curing cancer and eliminating heart disease would be nice, but what the government — federal, state and local — would like most of all is a new source of revenue, i.e., something new to tax.
Several of the states where marijuana was legalized think they’ve found one: Preserve the potheads, for theirs is the solution to declining tax revenue.
The legislature in Massachusetts, which long ago earned the appellation “Taxachusetts,” is considering changes to a voter-approved recreational marijuana law that raise the taxes on pot, which voters made respectable, or at least legal, in November. It was originally taxed at a collective rate of 12 percent, through excise, sales and other levies. If the state House and Senate agree, and Gov. Charlie Baker, a Republican, signs it, the collective tax would rise to 28 percent.
But it’s actually to be even higher, once the revenue bureaucrats get through figuring out all the way to “enhance” the higher taxes. Pothead advocates say the latest version of the legislative proposal puts a 21.75 percent tax on sales of marijuana between wholesalers and retailers, and another 28 percent tax on sales from retailers to customers.
That’s a whopper of an increase that critics say would prevent legalized marijuana laws from doing what they were supposed to do, and putting the black market in charge of the trade again. “It’s very, very dangerous because it encourages the illicit market, the very thing voters decided in November they didn’t want to see anymore,” Jim Borghesani, a spokesman for the “Yes on 4,” the successful ballot proposal, tells MassLive.com. “They wanted to take marijuana commerce away from the illicit market. What this House version does is pretty much give the industry back to the drug dealers.”
Recreational marijuana advocates want the current tax rate to