In the Washington State legislature, Rep. Andrew Barkis (R-Olympia) has sponsored an amendment to the House budget allocating 18 million dollars to police departments around the state to fight drug addiction in homeless camps over the next two years. The program will be funded with cannabis tax money; however, there are no restrictions on how police can spend the grants.
Earlier in the session, Barkis’ proposal failed in the House Appropriations Committee but, after watching a widely publicized documentary on homelessness and drug addiction in Seattle, he asked his staff to draft the budget amendment. Upon hearing Barkis’s impassioned plea — his son suffers from heroin addiction and until recently was homeless in Seattle — the amendment passed with a bipartisan vote.
“Mr. Speaker, I watched a documentary or a news report the other day. If we don’t take these steps, all we are going to hear in the future is more bills named in memory of somebody, and I pray to God that it’s not named in memory of my son. Mr. Speaker, help me today in support of this amendment.” — Washington state Rep. Andrew Barkis, in testimony to the House
The budget passed on Friday, cementing Barkis’s amendment in the House Budget.
Most of Washington’s cannabis tax money currently goes to funding Medicaid, including $262 million in 2018, according to a KING 5 report. Another slice of the pie goes to funding substance abuse and prevention programs, while a large portion is sent back to cities who do not have cannabis moratoriums. A 2017 adjustment allows cities to spend their portion of cannabis tax revenue as they choose, some of which is used to fund local law enforcement. If Barkis’s amendment remains in the final budget, however, this will be the first money from cannabis taxes sent directly to local law enforcement in Washington state.
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