There is a simple way to solve all of Brattleboro’s current financial problems.
We can solve our budget problem. We can solve our problems of being a hub town providing services to surrounding towns,. We can raise our Grand List and add new jobs and businesses. We can support local farmers. We can pay for the Police and Fire facilities.
It’s not even that difficult.
Vermont needs to legalize marijuana and start a local option tax on its sale and use like Colorado and Washington have done, and before surrounding states jump on it.
For reference, Business Insider says Colorado expects up to $98 million in revenue from the sale of legal marijuana in the first year. (The Tax Foundation estimates a more conservative $70 million). Local governments, they say, keep 15% of the sales tax revenue. Forbes reports that Colorado sold $14.02 million worth of recreational marijuana - in January. Use of marijuana, polls say, has not increased or decreased since legalization.
“The biggest problem is actually how to spend the money: it’s not exactly a terrible problem to have.” - Kelly Phillips Erb, Forbes , 3/11/2014.
Brattleboro would benefit substantially from a local option marijuana tax. Being close to New Hampshire and Massachusetts (and Maine, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New York City), Brattleboro would be the first stop for many coming to enjoy legal marijuana in our state. We’d get a significant portion of the local option revenues.
New businesses would form, making good money and able to pay taxes and employees.
Old businesses could benefit. The Colorado Symphony, for example, is now holding BYO Cannabis events, offering music and munchies to new audiences. Our symphony, bakeries, restaurants, garden supply stores, and other businesses could adapt and profit.
Farmers would have a new source of income.
The tax would not fall on people in town requiring necessities like toothpaste. It’s a luxury and sin tax on an expensive product.
The tax revenues could be substantial. Forget about 1%. This could be 10% of a high priced item.
Those coming here to purchase marijuana from out of state would need places to use it before returning home. Art galleries, museums, musical venues, movies, and other events would be enticing, and would benefit. Tourism would get a boost.
There are medical benefits as well. Marijuana can be used for treating PTSD of vets, treating epilepsy in children, treating Alzheimers, reducing suicide rates, treating cancer, and reducing the need for opiate-based painkillers which could lead to a reduction in opiate addictions. We could be healthier as a result, and attract medical facilities (more business and jobs) interested in exploring treatment options.
Time is ticking. The greatest benefits would come from being first, and not waiting for other nearby states to get a jump on us. Vermont needs to take quick action, and southern Vermont issues could provide enough reasons to make it happen.
(It would be a shame to see New Hampshire beat us to this. They are working on it.)
We can maintain the status quo and continue to whine about our circumstances. We can wait, and let surrounding states go first and reap the rewards for being first. We can continue to let all the money currently spent on marijuana flow into the black market, untaxed. We can continue to reduce our standard of living and town services by maintaining a backward attitude toward a plant.
Or, we can take a step forward, and encourage innovation and entrepeneurship.
Want a shiny, new police station and much more? Work to legalize and tax marijuana immediately.