Massachusetts Marijuana: High Taxes and the Blackmarket | Marijuana

Massachusetts Marijuana: High Taxes and the Blackmarket


Elevated taxes announced for legal marijuana in Massachusetts.

On Monday, Massachusetts’ lawmakers rolled out their proposed tax plan for the sale of legal marijuana in the Bay State. Significantly less than the 56 percent tax plan first threatened by policy makers in June, the total tax rate under the new proposal could still hit 20 percent.

Question 4 was initially drafted, proposed, and passed last November based on a framework of a 12 percent tax rate – and won with 53.6% of the vote.

Now rewritten twice, the clandestine deal struck behind closed doors will break down something like this: local municipalities will have the option of assessing a 3% tax on any future recreational marijuana sales; the state will collect a 6.25% sales tax and a 10.75% excise tax will be assessed on all marijuana sales. The “medical use of marijuana” will not be taxed.

Able to opt out of legal sales until December 31, 2019 – those communities that voted against legalization in November 2016 will be mandated to hold a voter referendum on the issue, according to Mass Live.

“Under the deal announced Monday, Massachusetts communities that voted in November against the recreational marijuana ballot question will be able to ban local pot shops through action taken by their locally elected officials. Communities that voted “yes” have to hold a voter referendum if they want to ban or restrict pot shops.”

Anticipated to hit Gov. Charlie Baker’s desk before Friday, two pungent questions still hang in the air as Baker contemplates signing. Will the elevated tax structure on legal marijuana adversely affect its intended outcome of reducing the illegal marijuana market? And, how will the excise tax affect retail marijuana prices? I.E., how much will your next ⅛ of legal weed in Massachusetts cost?

A long time coming, this bill adheres to the basic fundamental will of the voters, addressing community concerns, zoning issues, and dispensary quotas. 

Massachusetts, marijuana taxes, and the black market

Good for law and order, and taking a real “bite out of crime,” establishing a fair and balanced tax rate on legal marijuana ultimately provides an increased revenue stream for law enforcement at the state and local levels. Historically bad for the illicit drug trade, legalizing cannabis usually denies street dealers access to one of their most lucrative clientele –  illicit pot customers. Conversely, prohibited pot reformed into a legal commodity provides critical funding for law enforcement, substance abuse prevention, and treatment programs – in addition to public health and education. By keeping cannabis legal and taxes low, the profitability is effectively extracted from the black market.

Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) Deadlines:

  • March 15, 2018
    • CCC shall promulgate rules and regulations for the issuance of licenses.
  • April 1, 2018
    • Accept applications for licenses.
  • April 1-15, 2018
    • Review applications of operating medical establishments and businesses that demonstrate experience in or business practices that promote economic empowerment in communities disproportionately impacted, for grant or denial of license.
  • May 1, 2018
    • Independent Testing Laboratory regulations and rules promulgated.
    • Regulations for Nantucket and Duke counties promulgated.
  • June 1, 2018
    • CCC may start issuing licenses for marijuana establishments.
  • December 31, 2018
    • If CCC has not yet transferred medical marijuana program from the Department of Health, the program automatically transfers.


About Author

My name is Monterey Bud and I was born in Long Beach and raised on the central coast. I surf, dab, burn and write. I'm a husband, a father and a lifelong consumer of connoisseur grade weed. I have been writing about marijuana strains, science, and politics for since 2012. A Big Sur cultivator from the pre-helicopter days, I'm a big fan of new strains and breaking news. I can be reached on Twitter @MontereyBud


  1. Still no discussion about the high tax rate. To much tax at the outset will hinder the legal market. At the same time it will reinforce the black market. This will allow children to buy cannabis as much as they have money for. The black market doesn’t care how old you are. This thirst for more tax money is thoughtless of the consequences of maintaining a high tax rate.

  2. Lawrence Goodwin on

    The official nickname of Massachusetts is the “Bay State,” not the “Codfish State.” Cod does happen to be the official state fish in MA, but that’s still not equivalent to the nickname. As for the taxes, everybody should just calm down and see how it all shakes out. Be grateful that yet another state is now taking a strong stand against the federal “marihuana” fraud and re-legalizing cannabis commerce.

    • @Lawrence Goodwin, I guess Wikipedia needs to change their info: As usual, thanks for stopping in from TWB.
      Massachusetts nicknames:
      The Bay State
      The Old Colony State
      The Codfish State
      Massachusetts nickname – the Codfish State

      • Lawrence Goodwin on

        It’s always a pleasure reading your work, Mr. Bud. I rarely consult Wikipedia. The brave dudes at Weed News, the good people of (especially the creator of the most amazing and beautiful cannabis pictures of all, Ms. Allie Beckett:), and real people on the ground are my main refuge from the anti-“marihuana” tyranny. Plus, I lived in Boston for 7 years, and not once did I hear a Massachusetts resident call it the “Codfish State.” Every person I heard said “Bay State.”

  3. Taxation without representation. How dumb is that?
    Excess taxation of cannabis in all of it’s various forms = maybe a revolution is becoming more of a necessity.
    Give me taxfree cannabis medicine or cause me death. The taxman only comes to take not provide.

  4. The Neocons that control the ruling-class of Mass wouldn’t let us have legal marijuana without a high tax on it. It’s probably the only reason why most of them were willing to go along with it without having a reefer madness hissy fit.

    That being said, I agree that it is too high and will not help so much to prevent the black market. What they need to do is simply reduce the price of marijuana to begin with, then add the tax, so that the price with the taxes on it is still affordable for all.

  5. If governments get too tax greedy, the black market will undercut them, crime will continue, and good people will have to deal with criminals, in order to afford what the government charges outrages premiums to line their own pockets.

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