A bi-partisan bill seeking to curb illegal cannabis sales in Massachusetts was unveiled on Wednesday. The proposal aims to increase legal cannabis market participation, improve public safety, and reduce youth consumption rates.
According to a joint press release from state Sen. Michael Moore (D) and state Rep. Hannah Kane (R) – who co-sponsored the bill – 75 percent of all cannabis sales in the Commonwealth occur in the illicit market.
The measure established a Multi-Agency Illicit Marijuana Task Force that mirrors the state’s anti-tobacco task force. The task force would work with state agencies, law enforcement, and the public to find unlicensed sellers who would be subject to a “foregone tax revenue assessment.” That assessment would bill the illegal operator for the “total estimated forgone tax revenue numerically expressed as the total aggregated percentage of all state and municipal sales and marijuana taxes multiplied by the total value of the identified marijuana or marijuana products illegally cultivated, processed, manufactured or distributed.” Failure to pay would lead to additional fines and interest.
The proposal neither locks out individuals who are subject to the assessment from being awarded a license or participating in the industry nor prevents law enforcement from filing criminal charges.
The measure has the support of the Cannabis Control Commissioner Britte McBride, who urged legalization supporters to support the bill.
“An active illicit cannabis market diverts tax money from the Commonwealth, subverts the public health regulations that the Commission put into place to protect consumers, and undermines public safety. As we strive to establish a safe, responsible industry, the illicit market perpetuates negative stereotypes which can be a barrier to individuals getting a foothold in the legal market.” – McBride, in a statement
The CCC would have a representative on the task force, along with the commissioner of agriculture and representatives from the Department of Public Health, Attorney General’s Office, the State Treasurer’s Office. Two municipal police chiefs appointed by the governor would also serve on the task force, which would be co-chaired by the Colonel of the State Police and Commissioner of the Department of Revenue.
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