INVESTMENTS WOULD HAVE COME FROM EXCESS MONEY IN THE MEDICAL MARIJUANA FUND

Actions speak volumes, don’t they? Well, the Governor showed his true colors when it comes to investing in public health when he vetoed more than $15M in public health prevention programs for things like suicide prevention, health issues and communities affected by drug addiction and incarceration, and medical student loans with a focus on psychiatry.

All of the money would have come from excess funds in the Medical Marijuana Fund that are there because of my mistake.

When the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act passed back in 2010 I set the card fee at $150/year ($75/year for folks that qualify for SNAP) which turned out to be way too high. I anticipated that we’d have about 40,000 card holders, not hundreds of thousands. As a result, the Medical Marijuana Fund now has almost $100,000,000 in it, far more than is needed to administer the program.

The governor’s veto of SB1408 stopped more than $15M from going to various public health and research programs. Governor Ducey’s veto scuttled a golden opportunity to use some of the excess money in the fund for worthy causes. Instead, the Fund will continue to lie dormant and important public health interventions unaddressed.

The bill would have required ADHS to provide grant monies from the Fund for a host of good causes, including:

  • $5,000,000 to the county public health departments to address public health issues related to drug addiction and incarceration;

  • $2,000,000 to the Institute for Mental Health Research for research to improve mental health services, research and education;

  • $2,000,000 to the Primary Care Provider Loan Repayment Program & the Rural Private Primary Care Provider Loan Repayment Program (prioritizing providers in behavioral health);

  • $2,000,000 to the Board of Medical Student Loans with a focus on psychiatry or other areas of practice;

  • $1,250,000 to ADHS for suicide prevention;

  • $1,250,000 to the AHCCCS for suicide prevention;

  • $1,000,000 for the health care directives registry; and

  • $250,000 to the ADHS’ Arizona Biomedical Research Commission for research the correlation between marijuana use and mental illness.

Sadly, none of these research and intervention opportunities will be happening now that the governor vetoed the bill.

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