- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Massachusetts remains on track to reap at least $44 million in recreational marijuana-related tax revenue during the current fiscal year despite retail pot sales starting several months behind schedule, a top financial official said Wednesday.

Revenue Commissioner Christopher Harding told lawmakers that marijuana taxes should meet projections during the fiscal year that started July 1, 2018, local news outlets reported, despite setbacks that critics say cost the state millions of dollars.

Massachusetts voted in November 2016 to legalize marijuana and launch a system for allowing retail sales, and last month the state became the seventh in the nation where adults can legally purchase the plant from licensed dispensaries for recreational purposes.

Regulators previously expected recreational marijuana sales to start on July 1, however, and legalization advocates said Massachusetts missed out on upwards of $16 million in related tax revenue by falling behind schedule.

Delays aside, Mr. Harding testified before a Joint Ways and Means Committee that Massachusetts should still earn between $44 million and $82 million in marijuana taxes during fiscal year 2019, State House News Service reported.

Citing “very robust” sales, Mr. Harding said revenue officials stand by their previous forecast of marijuana sales earning the state between $93 million and $172 million during fiscal year 2020, according to the outlet.

The only two dispensaries licensed to sell recreational pot in Massachusetts have sold $4.79 million worth of marijuana since opening their doors to retail customers on Nov. 20, the state Cannabis Control Commission said Tuesday. The two shops sold roughly $2.22 million worth of product during the first five days of retail sales, regulators announced previously, followed by over $2.58 million sold between Nov. 26 and Dec. 2, the commission said Tuesday.

“We don’t know if that trend will continue at that pace once more stores open,” Mr. Harding said Wednesday. “We’ll continue to track that.”

Recreational marijuana sold in Massachusetts is subject to the state’s standard 6.25 percent sales tax plus and a 10.75 percent excise tax, in addition to local taxes where applicable.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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