Slow recreational marijuana rollout a lag on taxes – Berkshire Eagle

By Michael P. Norton, State House News Service

BOSTON — Saying Massachusetts has missed out on $16 million in marijuana taxes, officials behind the 2016 legal marijuana ballot question on Monday pointed to staffing levels and bureaucracy at the Cannabis Control Commission as potential reasons for the slow rollout of retail sales in Massachusetts.

“The Cannabis Control Commission needs to pick up the pace,” said Will Luzier, who managed the 2016 ballot campaign in Massachusetts, at a press conference outside the Statehouse. “We’re not here for cannabis operators; we’re here for the consumers and voters of the commonwealth that don’t understand why this is taking so long.”

Nevada and California voters approved non-medical marijuana laws in November 2016, at the same time the ballot question passed in Massachusetts. Retail shops opened in Nevada in July 2017 and in California in January 2018, Luzier said.

Blake Mensing, an attorney working with cannabis businesses in Massachusetts, said the cannabis commission, perhaps unintentionally, failed to prioritize the licensing of marijuana testing labs earlier in the process, ensuring some of the current delays. Commission officials have said they are prioritizing rolling out the industry correctly, rather than meeting any specific timeframe for retail sales. After missing a now three-month-old July 1 target date for retail sales, commission officials have declined to offer a new target for the start of retail sales.

The fiscal 2019 state budget, assembled when regulators were targeting July 1 as the beginning of retail marijuana sales, counts on $63 million in marijuana tax revenues and while many businesses have applied for the retail licenses to open shops, the Cannabis Control Commission has yet to grant any final approvals.

A law signed by Gov. Charlie Baker in December 2016 delayed the effective date of the new tax, and legislation signed by Baker in July 2017

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