Boston’s Proposed Tax on Alcohol to Fight Drug Epidemic

Massachusetts has received national attention as of late for being one of the epicenters for the opioid epidemic in the country. In 2015 there were 1,531 confirmed cases of opioid-related deaths in the state, a number that represents a sharp increase from previous years. State officials and those in the public health sector are doing their best to combat the rise in opioid-related overdoses and deaths, but their efforts as of yet have not been successful in moving the state towards a viable solution.

Understanding that a lack of funding towards state-run treatment programs may be one of the causes of the growing epidemic, Boston City Councilors Bill Linehan and Frank Baker have come up with an idea they feel may help the inundated state deal with this problem. The councilors have reintroduced their 2015 bill that put a 2% tax on all alcohol sold in Boston, in the hopes that they will be able to raise an additional $20 million in order to help the beleaguered city fight their opioid epidemic.

Boston’s proposed tax on alcohol has been met with both applaud and skepticism, as those who will be affected by the tax vie for a voice in the public sphere. The hospitality industry, which will be affected most by Boston’s proposed tax on alcohol, is understandably against the tax as it means their profit margins will be decreased. They feel that taxing an already highly regulated and taxed good is not fair and so they are lobbying against the implementation of the tax.

It isn’t just the hospitality industry that is against Boston’s proposed tax on alcohol, but the criticism seems to be wider spread, as last year Linehan and Baker held a hearing about the proposed tax but never took it to an official vote because of what they said was a lack of support.

Hoping to garner support this time around, they released details as to where the extra funding raised by the tax would go, showing the people of Boston that this is an actual measure that should be employed to safeguard Bostonians fighting addiction. Boston’s proposed tax on alcohol would result in the implementation of 24-hour addiction outreach programs, an $11 million increase in funding for city shelters, and $4 million in therapeutic support.

The councilors also stated that if the bill is passed, bars and restaurants should make patrons aware that there is a 2% increase in tax and inform them where the money is going. They believe that by doing this, the public will get behind the measure and see that an additional 20 cents on their $10 drink is nothing compared to the lives that could be saved.

Everyone in Boston does not share this sentiment and when the Boston Globe talked to bar patron throughout the city, many were against a price increase. These bar goers felt that even though 20 cents is not that much, it is still money that is coming out of their pockets for a product that is already overpriced. Many also felt that if you want to fight the opioid epidemic, then do something about opioids, believing it unfair to tax a legal product to fight illegal drug abuse.

Boston skyline

Regardless of where they stand on the proposed tax, the fact remains that in order to combat opioid addiction in Massachusetts, more funding has to be made available. Local shelters and state and city run treatment centers do not have the resources necessary in order to service everyone in need of help. This means that many people who do not have the money or insurance to attend a private treatment facility are unable to receive the help they need and so they are turned away and back to a life of drug addiction.

That being said, it is not always entirely necessary to go to treatment in order to get clean and sober, but for many people in desperate situations who are hopelessly addicted to opioids, getting clean and sober on their own is almost an impossible task. If they had the ability to attend a treatment program and get out of their environment for even just a little while, they may be afforded the space necessary in order to finally overcome their addiction and find recovery.

While the proposed bill is not the answer to all of Massachusetts’ problems with opioids, if the bill passes, it will be a good first step in combatting the rising problem. Hopefully, from this point, a dialogue can start to occur about the public policies on drug addiction in the state and the years of ostracizing and criminalizing can finally come to an end, although in order for this to happen there needs to be an understanding that money alone will not fix the public health problem of drug addiction.

In this country, we have created a scenario that is perfect for drug addiction to flourish. It is not something that we discussed in a public and logical manner until recently and our national agenda was to jail and punish drug addicts. Doing this has created a power vacuum surrounding drugs that is filled by illegal enterprises and so we wind up with the results we have seen as of late, that being powerful narcotics cut with any number of other substances that result in people’s deaths.

In order to move away from this, we need to not only have more funding in order to combat this problem, but funding allocated in the proper places, such as education, treatment, and law enforcement. We need to have an adult dialogue about what drug addiction means and not let our emotional or preconceived notions get in the way of progress, because as we have seen with just about every other social ill, a puritanical outlook that divides never truly solves the problem.

Finding Help For Opioid Addiction

If you are currently struggling with an addiction to opioids then call the professionals at Dream Center for Recovery today, at 1-877-978-3148. We can help you overcome your addiction and find a new life in recovery. Don’t delay, call today.