WASHINGTON: One selling point of Washington’s new legal marijuana law was that a huge chunk of pot-related tax revenue would be devoted to health coverage for low-income residents.
But it’s not clear the money will go to health care after all.
Under the federal Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” a would-be recipient of the pot taxes – Washington’s Basic Health Plan – is being eliminated. The plan, which provided low-cost health insurance to the working poor, is being absorbed by Medicaid and will end Dec. 31, according the state Health Care Authority.
As a result, lawmakers will need to take action if they want to rededicate the money that Initiative 502, the legal pot law passed by voters last year, intended for the Basic Health Plan. At least some of the money, which could amount to tens of millions of dollars a year, might wind up going toward local law enforcement costs or other uses.
“It would be my hope that in the spirit of the initiative the Legislature would dedicate that money into health care,” said retired state Rep. Mary Lou Dickerson, a sponsor of I-502. “In particular, mental health is a huge issue and hasn’t been properly funded.”