Public Health Experts Urge Legislature Not to Raid Marijuana Tax Revenue Earmarked for Prevention, Treatment, Evaluation

News Release: 
Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Several dozen leading substance abuse prevention and treatment professionals and public health experts, along with the Initiative 502 sponsors, wrote to the Washington Legislature urging that earmarked tax revenue under I-502 not be raided for other purposes.

I-502 passed in 2012 by large margin, receiving almost 56% support, and won in 20 of Washington’s 39 counties (including 5 east of the Cascades).  Budget proposals from both houses would divert I-502 funds away from their original earmarks for substance abuse prevention and treatment programming, drug education for youth and adults, community health care services, academic research, and evaluation – all of which are currently grossly underfunded. 

“Ultimately, this debate over whether the legislature should strip the provisions of I-502 that fund prevention, intervention, innovation, and evaluation is not a debate over policy choices.  That debate was had and decided in 2012. What is at stake today is nothing less than Washington’s commitment to respecting the will of the voters,” said Alison Holcomb, National Director, Campaign to End Mass Incarceration at ACLU, and author of Initiative 502.

“The Washington State Division of Behavioral Health and Recovery along with the University of Washington have identified at least 13 prevention programs with marijuana specific outcomes focused on peers, family, school and communities. Yes, we know that prevention really does work. These programs provide us with the best promise of protecting those most vulnerable to the change in the law, our youth,” said Kevin Haggerty, MSW, Ph.D., Director, Social Development Research Group.   

“There is a great need to use the I-502 funds for their intended purpose,” said Dr. Andrew Saxon, Board Chair of SAMA (Science and Management of Addictions), “which must include crafting a compelling public health message to inform Washington State citizens of the serious risks that marijuana poses to their children, and to inform our youth of the need to postpone experimentation with marijuana until at least age 21.”   

“We’ve had success preventing and reducing tobacco use through prevention and public education, but it requires consistent funding” said Elaine Ishihara, Director of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition Advocating Together for Healthy Communities (“APICAT”).  “Lawmakers should not take away money from I-502’s public health earmarks before these programs have even gotten off the ground; otherwise vulnerable populations will suffer preventable negative public health outcomes.”

“The Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention calls on lawmakers to preserve the Marijuana Dedicated Fund in the state budget for the vital role it plays in protecting youth in the legal marijuana experiment, said Derek Franklin, a WASAVP representative. Funding prevention to stop youth from using marijuana and treating those who become dependent on it is the morally responsible thing to do for our kids who are growing up with another addictive substance industry in their communities.”