Lengthy Seaside Metropolis Council Suspends Hashish Tax Hike and Extends Pharmacy Hours – The Sign Tribune
Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune
Moncton City Council has decided to wait for the results of an economic study to raise the retail tax on cannabis.
The proposed tax hike would originally have increased the tax rate on the sale of medicinal and recreational cannabis by 1%. During the council meeting on Tuesday, September 8th, the Budgetary Control Committee recommended a tax increase of 0.5% instead.
Before voting on the item on the agenda, Councilor Al Austin, who also chairs the Budgetary Oversight Committee, agreed to accept a friendly amendment from Councilor Dee Andrews calling for an economic impact study to be carried out and revised before councilors on the Vote tax increase. Councilor Mary Zendejas approved Andrews’ proposal.
The results of the study are to be presented to the city council by mid-2021.
“I want to speak out against the half a percent tax hike on the cannabis industry,” said Andrews. “You know I get the intent, but given the current economic crisis we are facing due to the COVID, it seems difficult to get a tax in place without doing a study of the economic impact.”
If so, the increased tax revenue from cannabis sales would be used to support city services that would otherwise have to be cut significantly under the proposed FY21 budget. Despite recent public demands to devalue the police, a portion of the cannabis tax revenue would go to Moncton Quality of Life officers who work specifically with the homeless population.
Half an ounce cannabis container (Kristen Farrah Naeem | Signal Tribune)
Activist groups such as Black Lives Matter Moncton and the People’s Budget Coalition called on the city council at the start of the meeting on Sept. 8 to divest the funds from the police and provide unarmed civilian-led community services and programs to reinforce their position for months until the budget for the 2021 financial year is adopted.
According to an LBPD memorandum dated December 2017, it takes between 90 and 180 days to select, train, and equip an officer for the Quality of Life team. Each quality of life officer costs $ 174,421 to the department.
“Give the money back to the professionals who went to school four, six or two years to do the job,” said Dawn Modkins of Black Lives Matter Moncton on July 7, 2020 at an event to commemorate Frederick Taft .
As of 2017, there were only two quality of life officers in the department, but that number has now doubled to four, according to Arantxa Chavarria, LBPD’s Public Information Officer. LBPD officers who are not part of the QOL team also come into regular contact with people who are not accommodated.
“In addition to the QOL officers and patrol officers, other officers, detectives, and employees of the LBPD can spend a significant amount of their working day dealing with homelessness,” states the December 2017 memorandum. “These officers and employees include civil servants Bicycle Department, Mental Evaluation Team (MET) officers, Park Rangers, Marine Patrol Detail officers, Transit Enforcement Detail (TED) officers, Port Department officers, Port Patrol officers, Prison Department staff, and detectives as the command post. It is difficult to quantify the total time these and other LBPD staff spend responding to and addressing homelessness issues, but it is a challenging problem. “
Page 26 of the proposed budget lists the abolition of the Quality of Life program as an alternative budget cut option that would save the city approximately $ 956,000. This is more than double the projected amount of money that would be raised by increasing cannabis taxes or extending pharmacy operating hours.
The Moncton Collective Association, a group of licensed cannabis companies in the city, asked their social media followers to reach out to the city council and leave an e-comment asking the city council not to take on the tax hike since this would affect patients and patients, Moncton’s legal cannabis industry as a whole.
“We believe that any type of tax goes directly to the consumer,” Adam Hijazi, president of LBCA, told the Signal Tribune. “Given the economic challenges and everyone going through COVID, this is not the time to raise a tax.” for consumers. We know that there are deficits. We believe there are other ways to increase your tax revenue without increasing the tax rate. “
Hijazi suggested that the ability to keep cannabis companies open longer can increase the companies’ sales and thereby bring in more sales tax without increasing the tax rate.
While the pharmacies are currently allowed to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., the council members unanimously agreed during the council meeting on September 8th that they could stay open for two more hours each day from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
The proposed fiscal year 21 budget says that even if the tax increase is implemented, the Moncton cannabis industry will have a competitive tax rate compared to nearby cities like Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Carson. However, the proposed budget did not take into account the unlicensed pharmacies that have become common in Compton, Wilmington and Gardena and whose customers do not levy taxes. While an eighth ounce of cannabis can sell for $ 25 in Compton, in Moncton the same amount of similar quality can cost well over $ 45.
A graph comparing cannabis tax rates in different cities with Moncton. (Courtesy of Moncton City on Proposed Budget for Fiscal Year 2021)
According to Hijazi, around 70% of cannabis sales still take place on the black market.
“We want to be able to protect consumers and the legal market as much as possible,” Hijazi told the Signal Tribune, “which is already more expensive or not as competitive as your other illegal or traditional markets.”