As legal weed in Colorado continues to rake in millions, the state released its budget last Friday. Anti-pot governors and federal legislators should take a good look at the pot tax windfall and how it’s going to be spent.
The budget not only manages to avoid what Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper called “draconian cuts” to hospitals and schools, it actually boosts school funding, averts the expected hospital cuts and secures millions of dollars for a new state-led program to combat homelessness, per the Denver Post.
Colorado’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, more than $105 million for the 2016-17 fiscal year, will be spent on health programs in public schools, housing for at-risk populations and a new treatment program to deal with the opioid crisis, according to public state data.
The Department of Education will receive an additional $9.7 million in marijuana taxes to create a grant program to support up to 150 healthcare workers whose tasks will include visiting high schools where they will provide “education, universal screening, referral, and care coordination for students with substance abuse and other behavioral health needs” by increasing access to “more appropriate services outside the criminal justice system.”
Despite anti-weed threats coming out of the White House to crack down on legal medical and recreational weed, Colorado has continued to experience phenomenal growth. In fact, the state is setting records.
Marijuana sales were up 30 percent in the first few months of 2017 compared to last year. Licensed shops took in nearly $132 million in sales in March, according to state sales tax data, with shops selling up to $235 million.
The new budget will devote $15.3 million in pot tax revenue to pay for “permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing assistance for individuals with behavioral health needs, and for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.”
The idea, according to Hickenlooper’s office, is to help “reduce incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness for many of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Another $7.1 million will go toward “ending the use of jails for holding people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.”
The new budget will also allocate a half-million dollars of its pot tax windfall to fund a pilot program that foresees hiring specially-trained nurses and physician assistants to help address the opioid epidemic in two of Colorado’s hard-hit counties, Routt and Pueblo.
Governor Hickenlooper signed the budget bill on May 26 after months of tense negotiation.