Dempsey pitches higher pot tax

Dempsey pitches higher pot tax

Says lower rate means less money for treatment, beds

THE HOUSE’S TOP BUDGET OFFICIAL on Friday made a pitch for a higher tax rate on recreational marijuana during a press conference unveiling the Legislature’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal.

Rep. Brian Dempsey of Haverhill, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said the 28 percent tax rate proposed in the House pot bill would bring in enough revenue to steer millions of dollars to substance abuse prevention and treatment. Dempsey said the House proposal would earmark $50 million to substance abuse prevention. (A correction was added to this story setting the correct amount.)

The House’s budget chief, who called the marijuana legislation a “tremendous opportunity” to provide funding for substance abuse, made his comments as lawmakers from the House and Senate resumed their contentious talks on marijuana legislation. The Senate is pushing for a tax rate of up to 12 percent, the same level backed by voters in last November’s referendum. The House favors a tax rate of 28 percent. The Senate bill is silent on money for drug treatment and prevention programs.

“Should we get a lower tax, that’s less money for treatment, less money for beds,” Dempsey said. “It would be a tremendous lost opportunity if we forego the opportunity to tax the new industry at a higher rate.”

Asked if he favored a higher tax rate to reduce pot consumption, Dempsey said “you’d like to see that.” But he said he doubted a higher tax rate would actually lead to less pot consumption based on the experience of states that tax marijuana heavily. “It’s hard to say that would actually happen, based on what I’ve seen in other states,” he said.

Dempsey said a higher tax rate on marijuana is also justified by all the work the state will have to do to implement the legalization of recreational pot.

The Legislature’s budget for fiscal 2018 includes $2 million for the buildup of a state regulatory agency, which is what the Senate recommended but less than the $4 million contained in earlier budget proposals of the House and Gov. Charlie Baker.  A spokeswoman for state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg called the funding “insufficient” and pointed out the treasurer asked for $10 million for  the first year but Dempsey said it’s plenty to seed the start-up.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Meet the Author

Jack Sullivan

Senior Investigative Reporter, CommonWealth

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

About Jack Sullivan

Jack Sullivan is a veteran of the Boston newspaper scene for nearly three decades. Prior to joining CommonWealth, he was editorial page editor of The Patriot Ledger in Quincy, a part of the GateHouse Media chain. Prior to that he was news editor at another GateHouse paper, The Enterprise of Brockton, and also was city edition editor at the Ledger. Jack was an investigative and enterprise reporter and executive city editor at the Boston Herald and a reporter at The Boston Globe.

He has reported stories such as the federal investigation into the Teamsters, the workings of the Yawkey Trust and sale of the Red Sox, organized crime, the church sex abuse scandal and the September 11 terrorist attacks. He has covered the State House, state and local politics, K-16 education, courts, crime, and general assignment.

Jack received the New England Press Association award for investigative reporting for a series on unused properties owned by the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, and shared the association's award for business for his reporting on the sale of the Boston Red Sox. As the Ledger editorial page editor, he won second place in 2007 for editorial writing from the Inland Press Association, the nation's oldest national journalism association of nearly 900 newspapers as members.

At CommonWealth, Jack and editor Bruce Mohl won first place for In-Depth Reporting from the Association of Capitol Reporters and Editors for a look at special education funding in Massachusetts. The same organization also awarded first place to a unique collaboration between WFXT-TV (FOX25) and CommonWealth for a series of stories on the Boston Redevelopment Authority and city employees getting affordable housing units, written by Jack and Bruce.

A Boston native, Jack has lived in Massachusetts all his life. He was a major in English and history with a minor in political science at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. A father and grandfather, he lives in Plymouth with his wife, Susan.

“We believe it’s at least a good starting point,” Dempsey said of the $2 million appropriation. “It’s enough to get things moving in the right direction.”

One advocate for the legalization of recreational marijuana said the appropriation is pitifully low. “The cost of licensing and tracking software alone, which must be in place before applications can be processed, is estimated at $5.5 million,” said Jim Borghesani, the communications director for the campaign last fall to legalize adult sale and use of pot.

  • wicked smaaht Dude
  • Novanglus

    Of course if Mr. Dempsey and the rest of the legislature had done their jobs, they would have more say in the matter.

    They didn’t! The voters had to do it for them.

    Set the tax to 18 percent, get out of the way, and let the Cannabis Control Commission do its job.

    ““Should we get a lower tax, that’s less money for treatment, less money for beds,” Dempsey said. “It would be a tremendous lost opportunity if we forego the opportunity to tax the new industry at a higher rate.”