Dear Legislature - Marijuana Tax Spending is Important Too, Youth Need It

This past November, Massachusetts showed up to the polls strongly in favor of legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. This prompted the Massachusetts House and Senate to create a special committee to provide legislative oversight on the taxation, sale, and regulation of its use.

The deadline for the committee to come to an agreement on the legalization law rewrite is overdue, and the marijuana tax has dominated the state and local news cycle in the last few weeks. Because Mass Mentoring Partnership believes in the will of the voters, the purpose of this blog post is not make a value judgment on this issue. However, we do believe it poses an interesting opportunity to access an alternative revenue stream for prevention programming and youth development.

Instead of being focusing most of their energy on the taxation of the recreational marijuana use, we call on the legislature to simultaneously dedicate their efforts on determining how this revenue will be appropriately used.

A portion of the revenue collected from the marijuana sales tax should be allocated to fund youth services and prevention programming, specifically for mentoring.

As a state that is reeling from continued societal challenges, it is imperative now more than ever that resources are reserved for preventative measures to invest in youth and build resilient communities across the Commonwealth.

How Other States Do This

Other states, such as California and Washington who have also legalized recreational marijuana use, allocate a portion or percentage of each year’s revenue to dropout prevention. In Colorado, over $1 million of sales tax revenue collected goes to the Youth Mentoring Services Fund, a program administered through the Colorado Department of Human Services. The Fund supports formal mentoring programs in the state, similar to the Mentoring Matching Grants, which is the only state funding for mentoring programs in Massachusetts.

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Our Call

Mentoring agencies and youth development organizations across our state are improving the lives of vulnerable youth by providing access to empowering youth-adult relationships. Moreover, they provide the kind of wrap-around supports youth need to stay in school, make responsible choices around risk-taking behavior, and to succeed in all facets of their lives. Research has proven that at-risk youth who are matched with a mentor for more than a year are less likely to become involved in substance and alcohol abuse, less likely to be truant, less likely to commit violent acts, and are more likely to show improved academic performance and improved attitudes toward school.

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source: denver.gov, Leading The Way In Municipal Marijuana Management

For that reason, Mass Mentoring Partnership has petitioned the members of the Committee on Marijuana Policy, calling on them to dedicate a portion of the tax collected to help build the capacity of mentoring programs statewide. With the state’s budget seeing a massive revenue shortfall in both FY18 and FY17, the Mentoring Matching Grant, which is the only dedicated state funding to mentoring, has failed to see an increase in three years, and was cut in half from when it was established in 2000 at $1,000,000. This stagnant growth has proved challenging in providing the resources necessary to support all of the programs who serve the critical needs of youth across our state. An alternative revenue stream dedicated specifically to supporting developmental relationships for our young people and mentoring would have a lasting and positive impact on our Commonwealth!

Stay connected with MMP in the coming weeks for developments on this important policy effort.