We already voted to legalize marijuana. Why are we voting again?
Last November’s Question 4 vote, which legalized marijuana for recreational use,1 also authorized communities to hold a second vote to opt out of recreational marijuana establishments. Milford’s Board of Selectmen decided unanimously to hold this second vote. 2 If you voted YES on Question 4 in November, you also voted YES to give every community across the state the right to opt out of hosting recreational marijuana establishments in their own city or town.
The Recreational Marijuana Ballot Question is confusing. Do I vote YES or NO?
The Marijuana Ballot Question will be the only item on the ballot.
Vote YES to prohibit—or ban—retail pot shops from operating within Milford. Vote NO to allow retail pot shops to operate in Milford.
Medical marijuana helps a lot of people. Why not allow pot shops to open in Milford?
Milford’s September 19th vote will have no effect on medical marijuana treatment centers. Treatment centers will still be allowed to open in Milford in the approved zones. 3
Is there a difference between medical marijuana and recreational marijuana?
Yes, recreational marijuana typically contains high levels of Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the mind‑altering chemical that produces euphoria. But many patients use medical marijuana solely for the therapeutic properties of Cannabidiol (CBD), which has no mind-altering side effects. Medicinal marijuana often is rich in CBD with little or no THC. 4
How can marijuana be dangerous?
Marijuana can be addictive. The earlier someone begins using marijuana, the higher their risk of addiction—one in six users who start under age 18 becomes dependent; 25 to 50% of teen heavy users become addicted. 5 In addition, the American Academy of Pediatrics has concluded that marijuana use among adolescents is dangerous for multiple reasons, including posing adverse effects on judgment, concentration, attention span, and reaction time, all of which are particularly dangerous while driving. 6
“On average, today’s marijuana is three times more potent than pre-1993 marijuana and eight times more potent than grass seized in 1976 and earlier.” 7 And the appetizing and fanciful appearance of edible marijuana “treats” containing high levels of THC (such as cookies, candy bars, and gummy bears) appeal to kids who are unable to distinguish them from their non-pot counterparts. 8
What is the impact of the September vote on personal choice and freedom?
The vote will have NO impact on Milford residents’ personal freedom to possess, grow, and use either medical or recreational marijuana as allowed by state law.
How might the operation of pot shops affect revenue and expenses for the Town?
The amount of revenue the fees and sales taxes on recreational marijuana might bring cannot be exactly predicted. The state law does not tax medical marijuana, but sets the tax rate for recreational marijuana as follows:
- 10.75% State Excise Tax: Paid by customer at time of purchase.
- 6.25% State Sales Tax: Paid by customer at time of purchase.
- 3% Local Option Excise Tax: This is an optional tax, similar to Meal and Hotel taxes. Milford can choose to adopt this tax or not. If Milford chooses to adopt this tax, the town can choose to set the rate at 3% or less–not any higher than 3%. If adopted, this tax would be paid by customer at time of purchase.
In addition, Milford can negotiate a Host Agreement with each marijuana establishment seeking to operate in town. The Host Agreement would specify the required conditions for allowing the establishment to operate in Milford. The Host Agreement may include a community impact fee that is no more than 3% of the establishment’s annual gross sales, as long as the fee is reasonably related to the costs imposed upon the town by the operation of the marijuana establishment. The community impact fee could cover costs related to increased services (such as Police, Emergency Response, Education), as well as infrastructure needs (such as sidewalks). The duration of the Host Agreement can also be negotiated, but cannot exceed five years. Once the duration period of the Host Agreement has elapsed, Milford and the marijuana establishment could negotiate a new agreement.
Milford can negotiate a Host Agreement with all recreational marijuana establishments (retail stores, cultivators, manufacturers, and testing facilities), as well as medical marijuana treatment centers.
Editor’s Note: The above taxation information has been corrected as of August 30, 2017 from what was previously published here using information from State Representative Hannah E. Kane. We are researching examples of the anticipated levels of revenue and expenses the town might expect based on the tax structure and Host Community agreement options and will publish here as soon as the information is available.
Whatever the revenue might be, it is unlikely to be a windfall. The Massachusetts Report of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana specifically states, “Tax revenues and fees that would be generated from legal sales may fall short of even covering the full public and social costs (including regulation, enforcement,public health and safety, and substance abuse treatment), and should not be expected to provide a significant new funding source for other public needs such as education and transportation.” 9
According to Milford’s Finance Committee, to hire one police officer with benefits would cost over $90,000.To hire a new teacher with benefits would cost over $80,000.
Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said on WGBH Radio that he anticipates the costs to Boston of managing pot shops as being 6%—the most amount of revenue that could possibly be negotiated if Boston were to implement the full 3% Local Option Tax and negotiate the full 3% impact fee in the Host Agreements with every one of its marijuana establishments.
The town of Amherst, Massachusetts (population ~38,000) anticipates needing to hire two new police officers and four new EMTs when pot shops open, costing the town $550,000 each year. 10
Because federal law still outlaws marijuana, most banks are unwilling to work with marijuana establishments, which means most transactions are in cash. This means that some retailers might not report all revenue.
What is the expected impact of pot shops on the black market?
Even though Colorado initiated legalized sales of recreational marijuana three years ago, the Denver Police Department has stated “The black market is booming.” 11 The Massachusetts Report of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana notes that “even with legalization and reasonable tax rates, the black market is likely to persist due to the significant profits to be gained from meeting demand across New England, as well as the ease of growing marijuana and the difficulty that law enforcement would face in enforcing home growing limits.” 12
What communities around Milford have opted out?
Holliston, Medway, Southborough, and Westborough have banned pot shops. Hopkinton and Ashland have enacted moratoriums. Hopedale and Upton are currently reviewing how to proceed. 13
When do Milford residents vote on pot shops?
Milford’s Special Town Election will be held Tuesday, September 19 from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. The Marijuana Ballot Question will be the only item on the ballot. Absentee Ballots for the Special Election are available in the Town Clerk’s Office.
Learn more on the town website: Milford.MA.us.
Who is allowed to vote in Milford’s September Election?
Any Milford resident who is a REGISTERED VOTER can vote in the September 19th Special Town Election. The deadline to register at the Town Clerk’s office is 8:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 30.
Where can I find more information that will help me decide how to vote?
- Milford CARES: CitizensforMilford.com/MilfordCARES
- The Marijuana Policy Initiative: Marijuana-Policy.org
- Massachusetts Medical Society: MassMed.org
- Massachusetts Prevention Alliance: MaPreventionAlliance.org
- Smart Approaches to Marijuana: LearnAboutSam.org
- “Chapter 94G: Drug Stewardship Program” on MALegislature.gov.
- “Milford Selectmen Set Marijuana Vote” in Milford Daily News, 5 June 2017.
- “Zoning By-law” Town of Milford, Massachusetts on Milford.MA.US.
- “Medical Vs. Recreational Marijuana” on drugrehab.com, 2017.
- “Marijuana What’s at Stake” by the Massachusetts Prevention Alliance, 2016.
- “The Impact of Marijuana Policies on Youth: Clinical, Research, and Legal Update,” Pediatrics, March 2015, Volume 135/Issue 3.
- “Marijuana legalization opponent says today’s marijuana is 300% to 800% stronger than in the past” on Politifact.com, 30 March 2014.
- “The Hidden Dangers of Marijuana Edibles” by Robert Glatter, MD, on Forbes, 27 July 2015.
- “Massachusetts Report of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana,” 8 March 2016.
- “Amherst Official Says College Town Will Need More Staff When Pot Stores Open,” WAMC.org, 12 April 2017.
- “Black market marijuana business booming in Colorado” on KDVR.com, 3 March 2017
- “Massachusetts Report of the Special Senate Committee on Marijuana,” 8 March 2016.
- “Marijuana map: Cities, towns,developing rules for recreational pot” on WCVB.com, 7 June 2017