Wednesday, May 18, 2016

History repeats: Marijuana tax revenue dedicated to prevention shifted to general fund

Over the years, this blog has included posts about tax revenue earmarked for teen substance use prevention being diverted to the state general fund. Prior to the passage of Initiative 502 which created the legal commercial marijuana system in our state, prevention advocates warned that the initiative's dedicated funds for prevention could and would be moved to fund other things as soon as the legislature was legally able to. And legislators did.

The Seattle Times editorial board recently wrote about it after a Seattle 16 year-old died because he "likely jumped from a balcony in a panic after smoking pot for the first time."The editorial describes the broken promises that, not surprisingly, are similar to previous broken promises for tobacco and liquor revenue earmarks:

Based on the revenue coming in or forecast through 2018, the state Department of Social and Health Services should have had $113 million for programs “aimed at the prevention or reduction” of substance abuse among middle and high schoolers — kids the age of Warsame. Instead, the agency is budgeted to receive only about half that amount.

Similarly, the state Department of Health should have had $77 million to operate a marijuana-education hotline and a statewide public-education campaign regarding marijuana for youths and adults. Instead, the Legislature earmarked less than one-third that amount — $24 million — and the marijuana-information hotline hasn’t materialized.
Source: Seattle Times, May 17, 2016

In communities, this means that while access to marijuana increases, as children are exposed to marijuana advertising, and marijuana use becomes normalized, young people aren't receiving messages to counteract marijuana marketing, not all middle schools are implementing tested and effective prevention programs, and not all parents are learning skills for supporting healthy decision making among their children. It means that, once again, legislators and those who promised Washingtonians that marijuana legalization would be good for substance use prevention are failing to do their part to help our teenagers stay drug free.

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