Medical Marijuana

Alcohol Tax Evasion

Why does alcohol get to evade taxes?


Yesterday on the MassLive.com site, James Walsh, executive director of the Massachusetts Sheriff’s association penned and opinion about the taxation of cannabis.
(http://www.masslive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2017/04/massachusetts_sheriffs_call_fo.html). Walsh makes some valid points than leaves all sense of reason.

He writes:

Those of us who work on a daily basis with individuals suffering from addiction believe that there is correlation between the use of alcohol and marijuana and the later abuse of harder drugs, especially narcotics and opiates. Our intake screening process demonstrates a clear nexus, as we find that a majority of the addicts in our correctional system began first with alcohol and marijuana before abusing stronger drugs. Therefore, we anticipate an eventual increase in our addicted population after the recreational use of marijuana becomes legal. 

Walsh is well meaning and makes a decent argument but he should leave the research to academics, not law enforcement officials. Walsh beats the long since debunked gateway argument. At least he includes alcohol in the unproven theory that one drug leads to the use of another. The question is, why would Walsh advocate for the taxation of cannabis to fund much needed treatment but not alcohol? It’s a mystery but it matters.  One of our frustrations at High Sobriety is insurance. We would love for all people in need to be able to access treatment services, high sobriety’s or elsewhere. Often the hurdle is financial constraints. Walsh is on to something; taxation could be beneficial in a few ways. The first is that taxes are a barrier to accessibility, this worked with tobacco. When cigarettes became heavily taxed, the use of them fell, drastically. Walsh seems to be onto a pretty basic premise here, if a product causes damage, the consumer of the product should pick up the tab. No argument, officer Walsh. The question is, why not tax alcohol in the same way? Why not an “intoxicating substance” tax? 

With a minimal amount of shoe leather reporting, the discovery was kind of amazing. Massachusetts last raised taxes on alcohol in 1975. People drove Pintos and wore polyester bell bottoms as fashion not camp snarky statements when last taxes were raised. Per alcoholjustice.org Massachusetts collects .11 per gallon on beer. A .10 tax raise just on beer, not on wine, distilled spirits or cannabis would put $135,000,000 into the state’s coffers for treatment and recovery services. A .10 tax raise on beer, wine, and distilled spirits would collect $320,000,000. The state could fund many treatment options with that money. Somehow, alcohol, killing 88k annually escapes scrutiny and accountability. 

Boston is often named “America’s drunkest city” in popular culture magazines and with that dubious honor comes a whole host of other problems but look out for the weed. I agree with Sheriff Walsh; we can look at taxation as part of a solution to better drug policy and to fund better treatment options but we cannot look the other way at alcohol. 


Author: Joe Schrank, Editor in Chief