Pot Tax to Fund Building Repairs in Lowell
LOWELL -- The city is blazing the trail for the rest of the state.
The Lowell City Council voted 8-0 Tuesday night to devote 25 percent of tax revenue from marijuana sales to repair municipal buildings, such as schools, firehouses and the police station.
Before the vote, the city’s chief financial officer said Lowell would be a “trailblazer” to use these specific receipts this way.
Marijuana sales launched in Massachusetts in November. Lowell’s first retail marijuana shop could open in February.
Recently, City Councilor Vesna Nuon proposed the city manager explore the possibility of using tax revenue from marijuana sales to repair city buildings.
“We need to do something,” Nuon said at Tuesday’s meeting, highlighting the major needs at buildings across the city.
The vote on Tuesday created a special purpose stabilization fund for the repair and maintenance of municipal facilities. The fund must remain in existence for at least three years.
The City Council last year accepted the 3 percent local excise option on recreational marijuana sales. Twenty-five percent of this tax revenue will go to repairing city buildings.
Also last year, the City Council approved a 3 percent community impact fee for public safety and education.
Officials do not have a projection on how much they’ll receive from marijuana sales’ taxes.
“What is 25 percent? No one knows that, but we know that schools need a lot of work,” said City Councilor Edward Kennedy.
“This is a commitment,” he later added. “It helps sustain our commitment to fix our schools.”
The City Council can raise the 25 percent figure down the road.
City Councilor Jim Milinazzo praised Nuon for bringing the motion forward, calling it a “trailblazing” idea.
“This program should be set up sooner than later,” he said.
The motion received some push back from City Councilor John Leahy, who said the council should slow down a bit and have a further discussion on where the money will specifically go.
He said the firehouses are in deplorable condition, and the police station has been a mess for years.
“We have a lot of things on our plate,” Leahy said.
But City Councilor Rita Mercier pointed out that the fund will address more than school buildings. It will help the Police and Fire Departments, she added.
City Councilor Rodney Elliott said the Cannabis Control Subcommittee should have a further discussion on the issue, but he later withdrew that idea.
Councilor Karen Cirillo was unable to vote on the measure because she had to leave the meeting before the vote was taken.