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, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, at a press conference in his office.

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.”

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