New Mexico Congresswoman Reintroduces Opioid Tax

By Pat Anson, Editor

A New Mexico congresswoman has reintroduced a bill that would require pharmaceutical companies to pay a tax on all opioid pain medication they make or import. The money raised would be earmarked for addiction treatment, prevention and research.

Democratic Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham first introduced the Heroin and Opioid Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act last December. The bill went nowhere, but was quietly reintroduced by Lujan Grisham last month. It’s been referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means.

The legislation, which is very similar to a bill introduced last year by West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin (D), would raise an estimated $2 billion annually by levying a one cent excise tax on every milligram of opioid pain medication. Excise taxes are not paid directly by consumers, but are levied on producers or merchants, who often pass the tax on to customers by including it in a product’s price.

Sen. Manchin’s bill – dubbed the LifeBOAT Act – would have placed the opioid tax directly on consumers. It was co-sponsored by several Democratic senators and endorsed by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, but was not supported by any Republicans and died in the GOP controlled Senate.   

REP. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM

REP. MICHELLE LUJAN GRISHAM

Rep. Lujan Grisham says her legislation would create a “permanent source of funding” to treat addicts, prevent opioid addiction, and develop new pain management techniques. It is co-sponsored by Reps. David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), and Collin Peterson (D-MN).

“The opioid epidemic has killed too many people, ripped too many families apart, and destroyed too many communities,” Rep. Lujan Grisham said in a press release when her bill was first introduced last year. “Our law enforcement agencies and health care providers are already overburdened and stretched to their limits. People are dying because they do not have the help they need. My bill will help fund the programs necessary to fight this epidemic.” 

In 2015, New Mexico had the eighth highest opioid death rate in the country – a rate that includes overdoses from illegal opioids such as heroin and illicit fentanyl, as well as prescription opioids. The state was recently awarded $9.5 million in federal funding to fight opioid and heroin abuse.

Rep. Lujan Grisham is a lawyer who served as New Mexico’s Secretary of Health under former Gov. Bill Richardson.  She was first elected to Congress in 2012 and was easily re-elected last year by a 2 to 1 margin. Lujan Grisham has announced plans to run for governor in 2018.