Washington Legislation Gone to Pot
Story by Danielle Rogers
Washington State voters voted in 2012 to legalize the recreational sale of marijuana and marijuana infused products to its residents aged 21 and over. These recreational Cannabis stores were added to the number of medical marijuana dispensaries, or safe access points, already in use across the state as part of the medical cannabis laws that took effect in 1998. The numbers from the latest fiscal year, according to the Washington State Liquor Control Board show that Washington generated approximately 260 million dollars from the sale and distribution of legal recreational cannabis, with 70 million of that money being generated in tax revenue. So, where is that money going?
In an email sent to the legislators in his district by John Novak, lead editor of the 420leaks.com project and co-director and treasurer of VIPER PAC, he states one must look no further than the Washington State Liquor control board itself. In the email, Novak says:
“According to the initiative, as passed by the voters, the WSLCB (Washington State Liquor Control Board) has control over these funds…”
Novak goes on to state the sections of the initiative that lays out what is to happen to the tax revenue from cannabis sales in the state of Washington, “NEW SECTION. Sec. 26.(1) There shall be a fund, known as the dedicated marijuana fund, which shall consist of all marijuana excise taxes, license fees, penalties, forfeitures, and all other moneys, income, or revenue received by the state liquor control board from marijuana-related activities. The state treasurer shall be custodian of the fund; (2) All moneys received by the state liquor control board or any employee thereof from marijuana-related activities shall be deposited each day in a depository approved by the state treasurer and transferred to the state treasurer to be credited to the dedicated marijuana fund; (3) Disbursements from the dedicated marijuana fund shall be on authorization of the state liquor control board or a duly authorized representative thereof.”
Next Novak addresses sections of the initiative on how the voters wished to see the tax revenue from legal marijuana sales dispersed: “Section 28 lays out how the tax money will be used…
NEW SECTION. Sec. 28.
All marijuana excise taxes collected from sales of marijuana, useable marijuana, and marijuana-infused products under section 27 of this act, and the license fees, penalties, and forfeitures derived under this act from marijuana producer, marijuana processor, and marijuana retailer licenses shall every three months be disbursed by the state liquor control board as follows:
(1) One hundred twenty-five thousand dollars to the department of social and health services to design and administer the Washington state healthy youth survey, analyze the collected data, and produce reports, in collaboration with the office of the superintendent of public instruction, department of health, department of commerce, family policy council, and state liquor control board. The survey shall be conducted at least every two years and include questions regarding, but not necessarily limited to, academic achievement, age at time of substance use initiation, antisocial behavior of friends, attitudes toward antisocial behavior, attitudes toward substance use, laws and community norms regarding antisocial behavior, family conflict, family management, parental attitudes toward substance use, peer rewarding of antisocial behavior, perceived risk of substance use, and rebelliousness. Funds disbursed under this subsection may be used to expand administration of the healthy youth survey to student populations attending institutions of higher education in Washington;
(2) Fifty thousand dollars to the department of social and health services for the purpose of contracting with the Washington state institute for public policy to conduct the cost-benefit evaluation and produce the reports described in section 30 of this act. This appropriation shall end after production of the final report required by section 30 of this act;
(3) Five thousand dollars to the University of Washington alcohol and drug abuse institute for the creation, maintenance, and timely updating of web-based public education materials providing medically and scientifically accurate information about the health and safety risks posed by marijuana use;
(4) An amount not exceeding one million two hundred fifty thousand dollars to the state liquor control board as is necessary for administration of this act;
(5) Of the funds remaining after the disbursements identified in subsections (1) through (4) of this section:
(a) Fifteen percent to the department of social and health services division of behavioral health and recovery for implementation and maintenance of programs and practices aimed at the prevention or reduction of maladaptive substance use, substance-use disorder, substance abuse or substance dependence, as these terms are defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, among middle school and high school age students, whether as an explicit goal of a given program or practice or as a consistently corresponding effect of its implementation; PROVIDED, That:
(i) Of the funds disbursed under (a) of this subsection, at least eighty-five percent must be directed to evidence-based and cost beneficial programs and practices that produce objectively measurable results; and
(ii) Up to fifteen percent of the funds disbursed under (a) of this subsection may be directed to research-based and emerging best practices or promising practices. In deciding which programs and practices to fund, the secretary of the department of social and health services shall consult, at least annually, with the University of Washington’s social development research group and the University of Washington’s alcohol and drug abuse institute; (b) Ten percent to the department of health for the creation, implementation, operation, and management of a marijuana education and public health program that contains the following:
(i) A marijuana use public health hotline that provides referrals to substance abuse treatment providers, utilizes evidence-based or research-based public health approaches to minimizing the harms associated with marijuana use, and does not solely advocate an abstinence-only approach.”
Where cannabis money is supposed to go and when, is clearly laid out in the initiative. So, how is the WSLCB dispersing this money? In an email response from the WSLCB to Mr. Novak’s public records request regarding the “......disbursement of funds, any warrants, vouchers, receipts, checks issued and communications about same under I-502…” For the dates from January 2012 until present, the answer is shocking. The money simply isn't being dispersed at all.
The WSLCB informs Novak via email that, according to a search of their finance division,
“We have discovered no records that are responsive to this request.”
They go on to state,
“No such disbursements have occurred to date.”
They give no reasoning as to why, but simply state that the dispersion has not been made.
So Washington state voters let their legislators know what they wanted done with the millions of dollars in tax revenue our state has generated from cannabis sales, and yet, according to the WSLCB, the agency also mandated to control said monies, absolutely no disbursements have been made up to the September 29, 2015 date of correspondence with Mr. Novak.
This leaves one to ask the following: Why has the money not been dispersed, and when will this money finally start to move? However, with the cannabis laws on record changing July 1st 2016, and the intentions of the WSLCB unclear, one has to watch all of this unfold as it happens, and until a time it is clearly outlined for us, wonder for themselves who in the state of Washington will benefit, ultimately, from our cannabis revenue?