Social justice and cannabis tax
First and foremost: How much should the state tax cannabis and how should that revenue be spent? In the latest version of the bill, a “social justice excise fee” would be added to a 7% sales tax. Both houses of the Legislature agree the excise fee would be based on market price, and should be used only for “impact zones” that have been adversely affected by marijuana enforcement, which has resulted in people of color being unfairly targeted.
The Senate’s version of the bill would earmark 70% of the sales-tax revenue for the impact communities. Sweeney said the proposed constitutional amendment would use the same criteria for the sales tax and the excise fee.
“This is long overdue,” Sweeney said. “We have to ensure money gets put back in those communities that have suffered.”
As social advocates have repeatedly stressed, there is no guarantee that future legislatures and governors will be bound by the racial and social justice intent of bill. How revenue is spent is a yearly process that is codified in the state budget. Legally, the only way to effectively guarantee that funds are dedicated to a specific source is with a constitutional amendment.
If a second constitutional amendment is passed next November, it would become effective on Jan. 1, 2023. It would not affect the Jan. 1 legalization deadline now in place.
The governor’s office did not respond to a request for comment.