Nevada Reaps $500k in Pot Taxes while Massachusetts Earns Nothing

A supporter holds up a “Yes on 4” sign at the 2016 Boston Freedom Rally (Scott Gacek/The Daily Chronic)

Two of the states that legalized the adult use of marijuana in November have taken very different approaches to the opening of the retail marijuana marketplace.

In Nevada, where lawmakers and state regulators pushed for an early start to retail marijuana sales six months before the voter-approved measure called for it, marijuana sales began just in time for Fourth of July weekend. And in those four days, the state garnered over half a million dollars in tax revenue — and that’s a conservative estimate.

Meanwhile in Massachusetts, where lawmakers have already delayed the timeline on implementing their voter approved measure by six months, lawmakers have been working behind closed doors on a “repeal and replace” bill to hike the taxes and make other changes to the law.

While lawmakers in Boston debate whether to stick with the 10 to 12 percent tax approved by voters, which is what the state Senate voted on, or to jack up the tax upward of 28 percent that is favored by the House in what can only be perceived as a money grab by state officials who want their cut of the pie.

But the problem in Massachusetts is their approach.  In December, when most lawmakers weren’t even in the State House, about half a dozen lawmakers quickly passed a law that delayed the start of marijuana sales by six months.  At the same time in Nevada, a state senator began the push to allow marijuana sales to begin as soon as possible, which eventually became a six-month early start.

Massachusetts lawmakers reasoned that they need to extend the implementation timeline by six months so they could rewrite the law. Because, you know, in a state that boasts some of the country’s most renown academic institutions and is ranked number one in the nation for education, voters clearly can’t read or be trusted to know what they’re voting on.  Obviously, the 200 members of the state legislature know better than the 1,769,328 residents who voted in favor of Question 4.

Bay State lawmakers say they need to raise the sales tax on marijuana to cover the costs of administering the program. But while they wait, Nevada has already earned over $500,000 in taxes in just four days, and is on pace to generate over $30 million in marijuana tax revenue this year alone.

And that doesn’t include the payroll taxes that will be collected by employees working legally in the cannabis industry. Or the meal taxes that will be generated by stoners with the munchies. Or sales taxes collected on ancillary products such as grow equipment and smoking gear.

Of course, if you raise the taxes too much, nobody is going to buy weed legally.  Most consumers wouldn’t balk at a ten percent marijuana tax, which is just a little higher than the statewide sales tax on other consumer goods, and would likely turn to the legal marketplace when it comes time to buy some bud.

Lower taxes lead to lower prices, which leads to people buying more in the long run, generating more taxes as the cycle continues.  But if you more than double the tax, as proposed by lawmakers in the House, cannabis consumers won’t be as inclined to buy weed legally, especially if black market prices remain more competitive.  It’s not like Massachusetts residents haven’t been driving to tax-free New Hampshire for decades when making large purchases or anything.

But hey, what do I know? I’m just a voter who consumes a lot of cannabis, tax free.  And as long as the buffoons on Beacon Hill try circumvent the will of voters, so will thousands of cannabis consumers in Massachusetts.

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