How state tax revenue from marijuana sales is distributed to cities, counties and mental health providers in Oregon generated more questions than answers during the Grant County Court’s June 13 meeting.
Community Counseling Solutions Executive Director Kimberly Lindsay emphasized that she was not there to tell the court how to spend its share of the tax revenue, but she also said she wanted the money spent on drug abuse treatment and not prevention.
CCS, the contract provider for mental health services in the county, has been dipping into its reserves to maintain its drug abuse treatment program, but that was not sustainable, Lindsay said.
Commissioner Jim Hamsher disagreed with Lindsay’s interpretation of the state’s marijuana law and read a portion of the statute to the court. The county had discretion on how to spend the marijuana tax revenue it received, he said.
While no decision was made and the court agreed to seek more information, Judge Scott Myers assured Lindsay that CCS would get the funding it needed for drug abuse treatment.
State law authorizing the distribution of marijuana tax revenue is complex and evolving.
A Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services Account was established in the state’s general fund in 2017 for the purpose of distributing a designated portion of marijuana tax revenue to grants for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, intervention and treatment and to registered sobering facilities.
As a result of a state budget shortfall in 2017, however, general fund dollars were removed from the Oregon Health Authority’s Health Systems Division and replaced with marijuana tax revenue.
According to a May 2017 memo from Chris Norman at OHA’s Health Systems Division, marijuana tax revenue allocated to the Oregon Health Authority was earmarked for the Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services Account.
“However, instead of the funds going directly to the community mental health programs (as they had previously), the programs would need to work with their local county to access the funds,” Lindsay told the Eagle.
In April this year, Nicole Corbin at OHA’s Health Systems Division informed Lindsay that each county in Oregon should have received three quarterly payments from the Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services Account.
According to Grant County Treasurer Julie Ellison, the county has received three marijuana tax payments from the state. The first two totaled $15,175, and those funds were provided to Blue Mountain Hospital on behalf of the Community Health Needs Assessment group’s Substance Abuse Committee. The third payment was for $18,362 and remains in a county account, she said.
“The counties can decide who receives the funds and how they are spent, however (state law) is clear on what they need to be spent on,” Lindsay told the Eagle. “I recently found out that the funds had been released to the counties, hence the meeting with Grant County.”
A new law signed by Gov. Kate Brown on April 3 establishes an Oregon Marijuana Account separate and distinct from the state’s general fund. The Department of Revenue will distribute funds from the account on a quarterly basis as follows:
• 10 percent to cities that have not banned marijuana sales, with 75 percent of that share based on each city’s population and 25 percent based on the number of marijuana industry licenses.
• 10 percent to counties that have not banned marijuana sales, with 75 percent of that share based on each county’s population and 25 percent based on the number of marijuana industry licenses.
• 40 percent to the State School Fund.
• 20 percent for mental health treatment or for alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment as provided for in the 2017 Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services Account.
• 15 percent to the Oregon State Police.
• 5 percent for purposes related to alcohol and drug abuse prevention, early intervention and treatment.
According to Corbin, the new bill will allow OHA to provide money directly through intergovernmental agreements between counties and mental health providers without having to go through the Mental Health Alcoholism and Drug Services Account.