Borough pot tax on hold, for now

An advisory committee on marijuana has failed to pass a resolution favoring a Matanuska Susitna Borough pot tax.

A draft resolution before the Mat Su Borough’s Marijuana Advisory Committee created more questions than answers at the committee’s Monday night meeting. After quizzing the Borough’s attorney on the difference between an excise tax, which has to be enacted by the Borough Assembly, and a sales tax, which is decided by voters, the committee could not agree on language for a proposed resolution calling for an excise tax on commercial marijuana.

One of the blocks faced by the committee is an upcoming ballot initiative banning commercial marijuana in the Mat Su Borough. That initiative will be decided in October, and until then, those wishing to start a cannabis business in the Borough under state law are taking a risk of losing that business. One panel member asked if those operating pot businesses in the Borough before October would be grandfathered in. Borough Attorney Nick Spiropolous, said no, and he said, pending Assembly approval:

“I’m going to be submitting comments on behalf of the Borough attorney’s office advising the state ABC board that they need to inform everybody that they are going to be operating at risk. Because, if the voters prohibit marijuana, except for industrial hemp, as per the initiative, it is a criminal act, and you don’t get grandfather rights for crimes.”

Committee member Ronda Marcy added that there was not enough information on the the potential impacts of the proposed tax, on businesses or the Borough.

“I haven’t been given anything that says anything about any positive impact on an excise tax. I know the Borough just gets giddy with the fact that somebody’s going to hand them a dollar, but until we see something, from somebody saying what impact they are looking at, then I am not comfortable that that is part of a whereas.”

Marcy also proposed a motion  to remove two clauses in the resolution relating to the October Borough election and the uncertainly posed by the upcoming initiative vote.

“I believe that that language in this resolution does reveal a bias,” she told the panel.  She told the panel that the proposed excise tax, sometimes called a “sin tax”, has negative implications for the product being sold.

After some feisty debate, Marcy withdrew her motion, but the committee voted to postpone a final vote on the  tax resolution until the next meeting. Marijuana committee chair Sarah Williams says she is not disappointed by the failure of the panel to come to a decision on Monday.

“It’s really important that we have the opportunity to discuss it wholeheartedly. And these advisory members of this board need to know what they are passing, especially when it comes to taxation.”

The committee has two powers, defining land use and taxes relating to commercial marijuana in the Borough. The Mat Su Borough Assembly holds a public hearing on pot land use regulations Tuesday night. I