BOSTON (WWLP) – Massachusetts is expected to get a big payoff from future recreational marijuana sales, entering a billion dollar industry. Now, many lawmakers want to use a piece of the pot money.
Voters passed recreational marijuana in November of last year so you can smoke it, but you can’t legally buy it yet.
The state’s Marijuana Policy Committee hopes to clear up some of these gray areas, but debate is far from over. Lawmakers are still mulling over how much to tax pot sales and where money from those tax revenues will go.
“Some of that money should be earmarked and allocated for, obviously, the opiate crisis right now, more treatment beds,” said State Rep. John Velis, (D) Westfield. “That thing we hear more and more is there’s not enough treatment beds for people.”
Lawmakers have filed several bills to use revenues from the 10 percent pot sales tax to combat substance abuse, creating treatment programs and preventing youth drug use.
Another proposal would use one percent of the excise tax to fund youth work programs.
“The balance is to make sure that we do it in a timely fashion, but address all the concerns from public safety standpoint and from a public health standpoint, especially,” said State Senator Jim Welch, (D) West Springfield.
By the year 2020, marijuana sales could exceed $1.1 billion. Many lawmakers want to utilize this new revenue source and increase the tax further, but critics are concerned it could keep people from buying pot legally.
“I thought that the tax rate on the ballot question was far too low. If you look at the other states, where they all land, they’re much higher than Massachusetts currently is,” said State Rep. Michael Finn, (D) West Springfield.
Washington more than doubles Massachusetts’ proposed pot tax, tacking on an excise tax of 37 percent on sales.
The Marijuana Policy Committee is expected to make recommendations to the state within the next couple months.