Money isn’t everything, but in two Massachusetts towns, one revenue stream has meant a great deal to their treasuries.
Over three fiscal years, the town of Great Barrington has collected more than $6.7 million in sales tax revenue and community impact fees from cannabis sales. In a comparison worth noting, the amount to be raised by taxes in the town of Catskill in its 2021 adopted budget is $4,268,919. Estimating Great Barrington averages $2.2 million per year from cannabis sales over three years, that amount would cut Catskill’s 2021 total tax levy by more than half.
In Lee, Massachusetts, the first cannabis retailer opened in 2019, and in its first year of operation, it generated more than $494,000 for the town, which is 3% of its sales.
A cannabis dispensary that opens in Massachusetts tends to generate a great deal of revenue for the locality, said Nancy Poylo, a village trustee in Athens, which appointed a committee to review the options and impacts of allowing cannabis retailers to do business there.
“If you look at Great Barrington and you see what this one store has done for downtown ..., it’s incredible,” Poylo said. “It has brought in such an influx of people — there are more people shopping, dining, lunching.”
Joining the governments of other municipalities, the Catskill Town Board plans to hold a public meeting to discuss opting in to permitting marijuana sales or to opt out. The town has to make a decision by the end of the year.
Here’s a suggestion for Catskill, Athens and all the other municipalities: You want to compete in the modern marketplace and bring in paying customers for dining and shopping. Do the research and then take the prospect of allowing cannabis sales into your towns seriously. Yes, there are moral issues to weigh and they should not be taken lightly. Just remember recreational marijuana use is legal in New York state. And remember cannabis sales are working in Great Barrington — not all that far from this area. The local post-COVID economy will need support.
We agree money isn’t everything, but right now, opting in sounds like a wise move.