A recent investigation into drug treatment centers in southern California found rampant financial corruption and inflated reporting of patient attendance.
The investigation, conducted by the nonprofit Center for Investigative Reporting and CNN, found that dozens of clinics showed signs of deception and questionable billing practices. The two worst offenders, Able Family and GB Medical Services, were virtually empty storefronts run by convicted criminals that bribed clients and submitted fake names to a government insurance provider in order to collect millions in taxpayer money. Over the past two years alone, the clinics indicted by the investigation received $94 million in public funds.
According to CNN’s interviews with former state officials, California’s Department of Health Care Services has “fielded concerns about rehab clinic fraud for at least five years yet has done almost nothing to combat it.”
While these findings demonstrate the need for reform in California’s regulation of drug treatment centers, they also provide additional evidence that the number of people in treatment for marijuana use is inflated.
A 2010 report by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that a majority (57%) of participants in drug treatment programs for marijuana were referred there by the criminal justice system. In other words, users who were arrested for simple possession were offered the choice of “treatment” or jail time.
With all of the money to be made from these programs – through forced attendance or unscrupulous government agencies forking over taxpayer money for fake clients – it is of little surprise that some of the most vocal critics of marijuana policy reform own and operate treatment clinics.
Pennsylvania recently joined the growing list of states considering taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol this year, when Sen. Daylin Leach (D-17) introduced SB 528. The proposal was referred to the Senate Law and Justice Committee on April 3.
Sen. Leach and family
Sen. Leach’s bill, the Regulate Marijuana Act, would allow adults 21 and over to possess, grow, process, or transport up to six marijuana plants (three or fewer being mature) and possess the marijuana produced by those plants where they were grown, provided that the growing takes place in a secure location. In addition, adults would be allowed to give away up to one ounce of marijuana to other adults who are 21 or older.
SB 528 would task the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board with licensing marijuana-related facilities and regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over. In terms of taxation, the bill calls on the General Assembly to enact an excise tax on marijuana sold or transferred.
If you are a Pennsylvania resident, please contact your legislators now, and ask them to support taxing and regulating marijuana in a manner similar to alcohol.
Last week, Alabama joined the growing list of states considering taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol this year. Sponsored by Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham), HB 550 would remove all criminal penalties for possession of marijuana by adults. The proposal was referred to the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security, but has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.
Rep. Patricia Todd
Rep. Todd’s bill, the Alabama Cannabis and Hemp Reform Act of 2013, would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to one ounce of marijuana and cultivate up to 12 plants in a secure space. It would tax marijuana similarly to alcohol and would task the Alabama Department of Revenue with licensing retail outlets and regulating the cultivation, distribution, and sale of marijuana to adults 21 and over.
In addition to allowing a regulated and taxed marijuana industry, HB 550 would also set up a medical marijuana program. The bill would authorize the medical use of marijuana for qualifying patients who have been diagnosed with serious medical conditions by their physicians.
The Maryland House of Delegates will debate whether or not the state should permit the establishment of a legal market for businesses to sell marijuana to adults 21 and older. Delegate Curt Anderson (D-Baltimore City) introduced H.B. 1453 on Thursday. If passed, the bill would make marijuana legal for adults 21 and older and establish a system in which marijuana is regulated and taxed like alcohol. The proceeds from the bill’s stipulated excise tax will be used to offset implementation and fund treatment programs to prevent alcohol, tobacco, and drug abuse.
“It is time for a new, more sensible approach to marijuana in Maryland, and that is what this bill proposes,” said MPP deputy director of government relations Dan Riffle.