Sheriffs to Mass. lawmakers: raise pot tax, pay for addiction treatment

(AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File)

BOSTON (WPRI) — As Massachusetts lawmakers continue to work on the state’s recreational marijuana law, sheriffs across the Bay State are asking for the tax raise on pot in order to help combat the opioid crisis.

The state’s ‘Committee on Marijuana Policy’ held its last public hearing Monday with hopes of producing legislation by June that would refine the legalization law voters passed last November.

Sheriffs urged lawmakers Monday to use the legalization of marijuana as an opportunity to invest in substance abuse treatment. They are urging state lawmakers to increase the tax on pot from 10% to 15% to pay for those treatment programs.

“The resources are not there when people are putting their hand up for support, and as my colleague said earlier, corrections is one of the front lines, first lines of detoxification for people that are coming in,” said Hampden County Sheriff Nicholas Cocchi.

Under the current law, marijuana sales would be subject to a 3.75% excise tax on top of the state’s 6.25% sales tax along with a local option tax of 2%. Under the bill, the total tax rate on marijuana sales would jump from 12% to 17%.

“The state’s that have legalized it — Colorado, Washington, Alaska — that just hasn’t been the case. They’re doing well. It’s a great source of revenue for them. So I think we can do it. We need to do it. People are dying every day,” says State Representative John Velis, (D) Westfield.

Currently, Washington has the highest tax on pot sales at 37%, followed by Colorado at 29%.

The committee is expected to recommend changes to the ballot law in June.