Skip to main content

Biden FY 2025 Drug Budget Revealed, CO Safe Injection Site Bill Advances, More... (3/12/24)

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
Consequences of Prohibition

Washington state lawmakers vote to kill a 37 percent excise tax on medical marijuana, Nebraska lawmakers fail to override a veto of a needle exchange bill, and more. 

No needle exchanges for you Cornhuskers after a gubernatorial veto and a failed override vote. (Creative Commons)
Marijuana Policy

Biden Again Proposes Blocking Marijuana Sales in DC. The Biden administration's Fiscal Year 2025 budget, released this week, proposes continuing a provision that bars the District of Columbia from using tax dollars to create a system of legal marijuana commerce. DC voters legalized marijuana in 2014, but ever since then, congressional riders have blocked the District from implementing full commercial legalization. 

This is the fourth year in a row that the Biden administration has included the rider from Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) that prohibits the District from making its own decisions on marijuana policy. 

On the plus side, the administration's budget request once again proposes to maintain a longstanding rider that blocks the Justice Department from spending tax dollars to interfere with marijuana programs in states where it is legal. 

Medical Marijuana

Washington State Lawmakers Vote to Kill 37 Percent Medical Marijuana Tax. Both the House and the Senate have approved a bill to eliminate the 37 percent excise tax on medical marijuana products, House Bill 1453. Gov. Jay Inslee (D) is expected to sign the bill into law shortly. 

The state has one of the highest tax rates on medical marijuana products, which are taxed at the same rate as recreational marijuana products. The high taxes have been a burden for patients and providers. Medical marijuana patients are already exempt from general local sales and use taxes, but that 37 percent excise tax makes for steep prices at the dispensary. 

The bill would exempt medical marijuana patients from the excise tax until June 30, 2029, and would have to be renewed after that. 

Drug Policy 

Drug Czar Touts Administration's Fight Against Overdoses. White House Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP—the drug czar's office) Director Dr. Rahul Gupta talked up the Biden administration's plan to address the overdose epidemic as the administration rolled out its Fiscal Year 2025 budget on Monday.

The budget calls for $44.5 billion for National Drug Control Program agencies to build on the progress it already claims on the overdose front.

"While we have been able to take historic action over the past three years, and make significant progress, we must not abandon the approach that is necessary to save American lives," said Gupta. "This unprecedented epidemic calls for funding levels to match the challenges we face today. We need Congress to act with a sense of urgency in order to continue making progress. Congress can – and must – come together to provide this essential funding to crack down on fentanyl trafficking and expand access to lifesaving treatment. The American people deserve no less. Lives are on the line."

An administration fact sheet says the budget will:

  • Expand Access to Treatment for Substance Use Disorder and Invest in Overdose Prevention. The Administration has made historic progress in expanding access to treatment for opioid use disorder, including by enacting a bipartisan provision to expand the number of medical providers who can initiate treatment for opioid use disorder from 129,000 to nearly 2 million. The Budget increases funding for the State Opioid Response grant program, which has provided treatment services to over 1.2 million people and enabled States to reverse more than 600,000 overdoses with nearly 10 million purchased overdose reversal medication kits. The Budget also invests $713 million toward opioid use disorder prevention and treatment programs for veterans, as well as provides funding for a new technical assistance center to strengthen health providers’ understanding and treatment of women’s mental health and substance use.
  • Combat Narcotics Trafficking Networks. The Budget provides $3.3 billion to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to combat drug trafficking, including $1.2 billion to combat opioid trafficking, save lives, and make our communities safer. The Budget invests an additional $18 million in Domestic Counter-Fentanyl Threat Targeting Teams at the Drug Enforcement Administration to enhance America’s fight against the transnational criminal networks pushing deadly illicit fentanyl in America’s communities. These interdisciplinary teams of special agents, intelligence analysts, and data experts will map criminal organizations and build cases that lead to the dismantlement of entire drug trafficking networks and the deprivation of hundreds of millions of dollars to the Sinaloa and Jalisco cartels. In addition, the Budget provides $494 million in grants supporting efforts to address substance use, including $190 million for the Comprehensive Opioid, Stimulant, and Substance Use Program, $95 million to support Drug Courts, and $51 million for anti-drug task forces.
  • Disrupt the International Synthetic Drug Trade. The Budget includes $169 million to the Department of State for countering fentanyl and other synthetic drug production and trafficking. These resources would counter the worldwide flow of fentanyl and other synthetics that endanger public safety and health, and contribute to tens of thousands of drug-overdose deaths in the United States annually.
  • Reiterate the Administration’s Request for Immediate Funding to Counter Fentanyl at the Border. The Budget includes, and therefore reiterates the need for the Administration’s October 2023 supplemental request.  The supplemental request includes investments to build longer-term capacity to counter fentanyl, totaling $1.2 billion for the Departments of Homeland Security and Justice. This amount includes $239 million to hire 1,000 additional CBP Officers to stop fentanyl and other contraband from entering the U.S., $100 million for Homeland Security Investigations to investigate and disrupt transnational criminal organizations and drug traffickers, and $849 million for cutting-edge detection technology at ports of entry.
  • Launch the Violent Crime Reduction and Prevention Fund. The Budget builds upon President Biden’s Safer America Plan by investing an additional $247.1 million in FY 2025, a total of $1.2 billion of drug funding over five years to launch a new Violent Crime Reduction and Prevention Fund. The initiative will provide federal, state, local, Tribal, and territorial law enforcement the dedicated, seasoned, and full support they need to focus on violent crime, including hiring new Federal law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and forensic specialists to address violent crime, expand Federal operations to combat illicit fentanyl and apprehend dangerous fugitives. The fund will also support the hiring of 4,700 detectives at the state and local level to solve homicides, non-fatal shootings, and other violent crimes to drive down the high rate of unsolved violent crimes and the lengthy delays that undermine public trust and public safety. For FY 2025, this initiative includes $120.5 million for the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) Program to hire additional detectives and personnel, $39.5 million to hire additional Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, and $39.4 million to hire additional U.S. Attorneys. The initiative also proposes $10.5 million in funding to expand the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) Operation Overdrive, which uses a data-driven, intelligence-led approach to identify and dismantle violent drug trafficking networks, to 50 more cities that are experiencing high rates of gun violence and fentanyl overdoses for 45-day operations. 
  • Increase Access to Treatment in Carceral Settings. It is estimated that in 2021, between 19,700 and 27,000 individuals released from carceral settings died from an opioid overdose. The consistent delivery of Medications for Opioid Use Disorder (MOUD) while incarcerated and then immediately upon release could prevent upwards of 11,600 to 15,900 of these overdose deaths per year based on mathematical modeling. The Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) FY 2025 Drug Control Budget is $4.1 billion. As part of the BOP’s support for implementing the First Step Act, the funding supports further expansion of MOUD for treating individuals in BOP’s custody with an opioid use disorder. Currently nearly 4,000 patients are receiving treatment for opioid use disorders at BOP facilities and they estimate as much as 10 percent of the current population may benefit from these services in the future.
  • Strengthen Addiction Treatment. Data from the National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) suggests that the vast majority of persons who use drugs and may benefit from drug treatment, are not receiving it due to little perceived need or the lack of readily available services. To address the Administration’s goals of expanding quality treatment, reducing stigmatization, ensuring dedicated interventions for people returning to their community post-incarceration, and building a trained addiction workforce, the FY 2025 Budget will provide $21.8 billion for treatment. 
  • Expand Evidence-Based Harm Reduction. Evidence-based harm reduction interventions, such as opioid overdose reversal medications like naloxone, are vital to the Administration’s work saving lives. In support of President Biden’s Unity Agenda, the FY 2025 Drug Control Budget will provide $459 million for harm reduction.

Harm Reduction

Colorado House Committee Approves Safe Injection Site Bill. The House Health and Human Services Committee on Monday approved a bill to allow municipalities to set up safe injection sites, or "overdose prevention centers," House Bill 1028. The measure now heads for a House floor vote.

"In Colorado, we are suffering, as every corner of this country is, with losing our neighbors and our loved ones to preventable overdose deaths," said bill sponsor, Rep. Elisabeth Epps, D- Denver. "Those deaths are overwhelmingly the result of policy choices, and while often what we can do in our role in this body is limited, one thing we can do is correct choices and make better ones — ones that are based on evidence and science, ones that are driven by the health professionals who are living this work day in and day out."

According to preliminary estimates, 1,454 Coloradans died from drug overdoses last year, including 522 in the city of Denver alone. 

Similar legislation failed last year, and Gov. Jared Polis (D) opposes the measure. Last year, a spokesman for Polis said the governor "has been clear with Coloradans and the legislature that he is opposed to these drug use sites."

Nebraska Lawmakers Fail to Overcome Veto of Needle Exchange Bill. Last month, lawmakers in the unicameral legislature approved a bill allowing municipalities to set up needle exchanges, Legislative Bill 307, only to see it vetoed last week by Gov. Jim Pillen (R). This week, lawmakers came up short in a bid to override the veto. 

Pillen had warned against bringing "the failed policies of drug-infested cities like San Francisco here," and asked lawmakers to "sustain my veto to prevent our government from aiding and abetting the use of dangerous, illicit and dehumanizing drugs." The lawmakers listened, but failed to override even though they had passed the bill with a veto-proof majority. 

The bill would have allowed towns and cities to open facilities where drug users could discard old needles and pick up clean ones, a move aimed at reducing the risk of bloodborne diseases as well as providing a point of contact between users and social services. 

"I can only imagine what it’s like to be addicted, but I can tell you, if no one reaches out a hand, they’re never going to get better," said State Senator Mike Jacobson, a Republican who supported overriding the veto. 

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.