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Medicinal marijuana option looked at as American Samoa seeks matching funds for Medicaid

Medicaid Director Sandra King Young

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The legalisation of medicinal marijuana has been put forward as a way to release Medicaid funding for American Samoa.

Until a source of local funding ca be found, the $US84 million the US Congress approved for the territory cannot be used.

American Samoa has to come up with a match of about $30 million.

Medicaid Director Sandra King Young told a recent House Health Committee hearing that two possible sources of funding could be considered.

Ms King Young said a sales tax could be implemented.

She also put forward the idea of legalising medicinal marijuana.

"The other idea was legalising medicinal marijuana and then using 100 percent of those taxes for medical but I know that can be a controversial issue and again that is a decision for the legislature.

"Otherwise I don't really know where else we can create new money."

In response to Sandra King Young's suggestion, the Chairman of the House Budget and Appropriations Committee, Vailiuama Steve Leasiolagi, said representatives were leaning towards repealing a wage tax that was going to the local hospital and possibly finding 50 percent of that revenue for medicaid.

He also said legalisation medicinal marijuana was worthy of consideration and the Fono were reviewing the matter.

He said the $84 million is very much needed at this time to fund the territory's health needs especially the off island referral program and every effort must be made to secure a local match so that this funding can be used.