Afterschool and Cannabis Tax Revenue
On November 8th, 2016, Massachusetts voted to legalize recreational marijuana use and sales. Since then, the state government and local municipalities have created policies that impose taxes on cannabis sales. Recently, shops selling cannabis have begun to acquire licenses and open. As a result, the Commonwealth has created a new tax revenue stream and the question becomes, what should be done with these new dollars? What about the expansion of programs that are proven to mitigate rates of drug misuse? What about funding programs that build protective factors that keep young people safe? What about creating programs that over 300,000 high need students in Massachusetts deserve access to? What about Afterschool?
A ballot measure in the 2016 November elections legalized the use and sale of recreational marijuana. In the summer of 2017, the legislature amended the law and Governor Baker signed it. As of now, there is a 17% state tax imposed on marijuana sales made up of a 6.25% sales tax and an excise tax of 10.75%. Local municipalities can add a local sales tax of up to 3%. These taxes will go to the Marijuana Regulation Fund. Money in the fund can be used for “public and behavioral health including but not limited to, evidence-based and evidence-informed substance use prevention and treatment and substance use early intervention services in a recurring grant for school districts or community coalitions who operate on the strategic prevention framework or similar structure for youth substance use education and prevention.”
Senator Brendan Crighton has introduced a bill (S.260) to establish an Afterschool and Out of School Time Opportunity fund from marijuana tax revenue that would “support the establishment of and increase access to and the quality of afterschool and out of school time programs.“
The Case for afterschool
The hours between 3 and 6 are the riskiest hours as a teen as they are when juvenile crime, victimization, and drug use peak*. Teens who do not participate in structured activites after school (like afterschool programming) are three times more likely to participate in risky behavior**. Afterschool prevents that kind of risky behavior. Afterschool is a safe space for students to participate in enrichment activities. It helps students build character traits like self-control and confidence. It helps students foster positive connections with adults who act as role models***. Afterschool not only is a protective factor, but it builds protective factors. If the Commonwealth wants to use the tax revenue to fund substance us prevention programs, afterschool programs are as effective as it gets.
Examples in Other States
Alaska: Alaska passed a bill to create a Marijuana and Education Treatment Fund. This fund establishes the Alaska Marijuana Use Prevention Youth Services Grant Program which will fund before- and after-school care and youth program quality initiatives.
Colorado: The City of Denver is using a portion of the city's 3.5 percent special sales tax on pot products to help fund a Healthy Lifestyles courses . The Healthy Lifestyles is designed to clear up myths about marijuana and teach students about Colorado's unique laws regarding pot.
California: As part of the Prop. 64 campaign to legalize recreational marijuana, there was clear intent for afterschool programs to be a prime beneficiary of these the new revenues. Advocates in the state are currently working to develop laws and regulations to honor this intent.