Abreu: Pot Tax Bill ‘Spits in the Face of Democracy’
The chairman of New Bedford’s committee designed to help the city implement the sale of recreational marijuana thinks the proposed bill to raise the taxes on pot sales from 12 percent to 28 percent should go up in smoke.
“This just kind of spits in the face of democracy,” New Bedford City Councillor Ian Abreu, chair of the council’s Committee on Licensing and Zoning of Cannabis, said of the proposed legislation.
The bill cleared a joint committee of House and Senate members Wednesday on Beacon Hill, but after a special caucus of House Democrats, it was decided to hold the bill off from debate on the floor and a vote until some concerns could be addressed.
Speaking with WBSM’s Brian Thomas, Abreu said he read the entire 48-page bill and he also has some concerns. He says the biggest is the possibility that through an error in the writing of the bill, the new compounded tax rate could go as high as 55 percent.
“There’s no way someone would want to come to New Bedford and open up a business, not only with that tax, but with paying the commercial property taxes, and paying other services to the city,” he said. “It just isn’t going to happen.”
“This will just pump cannabis out into the ellicit and black market, and it could detract potential investors from wanting to come into a community like New Bedford, who voted resoundingly in favor of this,” he said.
Abreu said another red flag for him was the ability for the leadership of cities and towns–i.e. select boards, a board of aldermen or a city council–to hold their own vote as to whether or not to support or pull out of allowing recreational cannabis sales in their community.
“That’s taking away the will of the people and the voice of the people,” Abreu said. “That’s a huge problem for me, because the people have spoken. This just kind of spits in the face of democracy, and this is just big state beauracracy at its finest, because it’s not adhering to the will of the people.”
Abreu sees the proposed bill as nothing more than a political game, noting that the Senate portion of the joint committee wasn’t even involved in the crafting of the bill.
“All this was was a set-up by the House to set itself up for negotiations with the Senate. This was all politics,” he said. “That’s the way it played out. I call it like I see it, and that’s how this went down.”
He said the one thing he is in favor of from the proposed bill is a two percent optional sales tax that cities and towns can add on to recreational marijuana sales, ensuring that at least some of the marijuana taxes come directly back to the community.
“I’ve got no problem with the optional community tax. I don’t think I’d want to go higher than two percent, though,” he said.
Abreu also said that Councillor Joe Lopes also has a motion that will be brought before the next meeting of the Committee on Licensing and Zoning of Cannabis that would bring the question of continued support of recreational marijuana sales onto the state ballot every two years.
House Speaker Robert DeLeo said on Wednesday that the bill will likely be debated and voted on in the House sometime next week.