- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 12, 2018

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) - A marijuana tax would not create a “big windfall” for Vermont if sales were to become legal, the state’s tax commissioner told fellow members of an advisory board.

Commissioner Kaj Samsom said that costs across state government to create an infrastructure to tax and regulate the market quickly add up to the tax revenues.

Samsom’s comments came Wednesday as the Governor’s Marijuana Advisory Commission worked on its final recommendations to the governor. The board is tasked with looking at issues of public health, safety and the taxation and regulation of marijuana.

The panel is likely to recommend a 26-percent tax rate on marijuana sales. At the high end, that could yield $20 million in yearly tax revenue, according to a subcommittee. The rate includes a 20 percent cannabis retail excise tax and a 6 percent state sales tax.

“As a matter of scale it’s not a huge moving of the needle as far as state revenues,” Samsom said of marijuana tax revenues.

Vermont became the ninth state to legalize recreational use of marijuana in July when the law took effect and the first state to do it through a legislative vote in January. The law allows adults over age 21 to possess up to 1 ounce (28 grams) of marijuana, two mature marijuana plants and four immature plants, but it did not set up a system to tax or regulate the production of marijuana.

Republican Gov. Phil Scott, who said he signed the bill with mixed emotion, established the commission to look at highway safety, health and financial issues of a tax-and-regulate market.

Lt. Gov. David Zuckerman, a Progressive/Democrat who supports a marijuana market, said the study has delayed the process.

“If we’re looking at the economic development side or as some people think the tax revenue side it will not be as robust as it otherwise could have been had we been on the forefront,” he said.

He said he believes Vermont still has opportunities, similar to its distinctive craft beer industry.

“I think we can still have that work out for Vermont and rural people having businesses that can generate income for rural Vermont and bring young people into our state,” he said.

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This story has been corrected to fix the spelling of Samsom.


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