2020 looked to be the year for cannabis. Several states had plans to legalize cannabis via either voting on the November ballot or inclusion in the budget at the start of the year, but the coronavirus threw everything into disarray. The resultant health and economic crisis forced many of them to postpone legalizing cannabis to 2021 and beyond. However, some states were able to take the steps needed to initiate legalization despite the crisis. Vermont, for instance, seems poised to advance legal marijuana sales very soon.
S.54, legislation that will legalize retail marijuana sales in Vermont beginning in 2022 is set to advance in a special session either this month or next, says an inside source. Although the state legalized the possession of up to an ounce and cultivation of two plants, there is no regulatory system for retail sales. Bill S.54 would create a comprehensive regulatory structure for cultivation and retail sales. Two versions of S.54 have been approved by both chambers but they differ in certain ways.
The House version of the bill would impose an excise tax of 14% of the retail value and a 6% general sales tax while the Senate version would impose a 16% tax and allow for a local option of 2%, The senate bill would exempt recreational marijuana from the general sales tax levied by the state and it would also ban flower with more than 30% THC and concentrates with more than 60% THC. A bicameral conference committee appointed in March has been charged with reconciling the two different versions into one proposal to send to the governor.
“S.54 is currently in a committee of conference and we expect that committee to meet during the August/September legislative session. That’s consistent with what the leader said during a June telephone town hall, where she said they were ‘aiming to get it passed in August,’” said the chief of staff to House Speaker Mitzi Johnson. If S.54 is passed, Arizona will join a growing number of states which tax marijuana by retail price.
According to estimates from the Legislative Joint Fiscal Office (“JFO”), a 14% excise tax (House version) would raise $4.2 million in the first full fiscal year. 30% of the revenue would be allocated to misuse prevention while 60% would go to the general fund. A 16% retail tax (Senate version), one the other hand, would raise around $5.4 million in the first fiscal year.
Dave Silberman, a pro bono drug policy reform advocate says that beyond earning the state tax revenue, “an adult-use cannabis market will provide an economic lifeline to thousands of Vermonters by creating new, well-paying jobs that support our rural economy.”
It would be enlightening to hear what companies like Cannabis Global Inc. (OTC: CBGL) think about these two versions of the legalization bill.
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