April 21, 2015

Contact: Mark Cooke, ACLU of WA

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

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.

l-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 student 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."

Here is the text of the letter:

April 15,2015

Re: Reallocation of Initiative-502 tax revenue in SSB 6062/SSB 5077 and 2SHB 2136/SHB 1106

Dear Lawmakers,

The undersigned organizations and individuals, representing Washington State's substance abuse prevention, treatment, and public health communities, along with the ACLU of Washington, are greatly concerned about legislation currently under consideration that seeks to reallocate earmarked tax revenue in Initiative 502 (l-502). Diverting these funds would directly contradict the will of Washington voters, who made it clear in passing l-502 that they wanted a well-regulated and public health-oriented approach to marijuana policy rather than just legalization without more. And these funds provide resources 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.

Reallocating money from l-502's original earmarks defies the will of Washington's voters. By eliminating the Dedicated Marijuana Fund, the relevant Senate proposals, SSB 6062 and SSB 5077, would effectively eliminate l-502's earmarks, ignoring the Initiative's intent to "[g]enerate[ ] new... tax revenue for... health care, research, and substance abuse prevention." The House proposals, 2SHB 2136 and SHB 1106, are not as sweeping as the Senate's, but would still redirect money away from prevention programs to other non-marijuana-related programs. In moving forward with this cash grab, the legislature would be risking the interests and health of both Washington's youth and its adults - the former would not get the benefit of participating in evidence-based prevention programs, and the latter will not get sufficient education about risky marijuana use. Neither is a good outcome for Washington. l-502 won by a large margin, receiving almost 56% support, and won in 20 of Washington's 39 counties (including 5 east of the Cascades)-the legislature should respect the clearly expressed will of Washington's voters. 

Using l-502- earmarked funds to fill a budget hole now is dangerously shortsighted and unwise from both a public health and a cost-benefit perspective. Reduced funding for prevention and drug education programs today means increased substance abuse tomorrow, which translates directly to lost productivity and more health care costs down the line. The increased costs of these outcomes in the years to come will make today's supposed savings pale by comparison. 

As the Washington State lnstitute for Public Policy has shown repeatedly, the benefits from evidence-based public health/prevention and substance programs far outweigh the costs. Washington voters also enacted a measure that was to have been robustly evaluated by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy. Independent, reliable cost-benefit evaluation of the impacts of l-502 is critical to ensuring the legislature has solid data to inform future decisions about funding priorities that protect and promote public health and safety. SSB 6062 repeals the provisions mandating and funding these evaluations, which is unwise from a policy and public health perspective. Under the Senate proposal, funding for marijuana related research at the University of Washington and Washington State University would also be cut.

l-502 is still a new law and the general public is unfamiliar with its features, making this a crucial time for public education about the law. According to research from the University of Washington, "only 57 percent of Washington parents surveyed knew the legal age for recreational marijuana use." One of the study's authors indicated it "convincingly points out that people don't have good information about the new law." To combat this misinformation, the legislature must invest in prevention and drug education, which is known to work-for example, youth initiation of tobacco use was cut in half when tobacco litigation settlement dollars went to prevention programs. Now is not the time to cut funding for programs that prevent marijuana use and abuse by youth. 

Lawmakers should not defy the will of the voters by reallocating l-502 tax revenue away from substance abuse prevention and treatment programming, drug education for youth and adults, community health care services, academic research, and evaluation. Please leave l-502's critical earmarks intact.


Carolyn Bernhard, Co-Chair, Prevention Works in Seattle Coalition

Kimberlee R. Brackett, President and CEO Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA)

Julie Campbell, Director, Ballard Coalition

Mark Cooke, Campaign Policy Director, ACLU of Washington

Brittany Rhoades Cooper, PhD Assistant Professor, Human Development, Graduate Faculty in Prevention Science, Extension Specialist, Washington State University

Shelley Cooper-Ashford, Executive Director, Center for MultiCultural Health

Josh Daniel, Content Inventions

Norilyn de Ia Pena, concerned parent, Federal Way

Aileen De Leon, Executive Director, WAPI Community Services

Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson (ret.), Initiative 502 Co-Sponsor

Dennis M. Donovan, Ph.D., Member, Board of Directors, Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation

Sinivia Driggers, President, Samoan Nurses of Washington

Derek Franklin, Washington Association for Abuse & Violence Prevention (WASAVP)

Tracie Friedman, Youth Program Volunteer, Lau Khmu Association of Seattle

John Gahagan, Vice Chair, Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Foundation

Mike Graham-Squire, Washington Association for Abuse & Violence Prevention (WASAVP)

Gary Goldbaum, MD, MPH, Snohomish County Health Officer & Director

Kevin Haggerty, MSW, Ph.D., Director, Social Development Research Group

Mona T. Han, Executive Director, Coalition for Refugees from Burma

Patty Hayes, Interim Director, Public Health-Seattle & King County

Laura G. Hill, Professor and Chair, Department of Human Development, Interim Director of the Prevention Science PhD program, Washington State University

Alison Holcomb, National Director, Campaign to End Mass Incarceration at ACLU

Renee Hunter, Executive Director, Chelan-Douglas ToGETHER for Youth

Elaine Ishihara, Director, APICAT for Healthy Communities

Mark Johnson, Johnson Flora, lnitiative 502 Co-Sponsor

Ramona Leber, Washington Association for Abuse & Violence Prevention (WASAVP)

Priscilla Lisicich, Executive Director, Safe Streets Campaign - Pierce County

lnga Manskopf, Prevention WINS coalition member

Marcos Martinez, Executive Director, Entre Hermanos

John L. McKay, Visiting Professor of Law Seattle University, Initiative 502 Co-Sponsor

Michael McKee, Health Services & Community Partnership Director, International Community Health Services

Delton Mosby, Mental Health and Chemical Dependency Professional, Therapeutic Health Services

Sal Mungia, Gordon Thomas Honeywell, Initiative 502 Co-Sponsor

Adrienne Quinn, Director, Department of Community and Human Services, King County

Roger Roffman, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus, School of Social Work, University of Washington

Andrew J. Saxon, MD, Science and Management of Addictions (SAMA) Board Chair, Professor Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington

Lorena Silva, community member, Yakima Valley

Rick Steves, Guidebook author and travel TV host, Rick Steves' Europe, Initiative 502 Co-Sponsor

Jennifer Stuber, Associate Professor, University of Washington

Val Thomas-Matson, Program Manager, Health King County Coalition

Linda J. Thompson, Executive Director, Greater Spokane Substance Abuse Council (GSSAC)

Leslie R, Walker, MD, Chief, Division of Adolescent Medicine, University of Washington Department of Pediatrics & Seattle Children's Hospital

Paul Weatherly, Bellevue College Alcohol/Drug Counseling Program

Leondra Weiss, Nurse Manager, Harborview Women's Clinic

Robert W. Wood, M.D., Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of Washington, Initiative 502 Co-

The Washington State Psychiatric Association

Marijuana ACLU & SAMA