colorado marijuana tax funds healthcare initiatives

Colorado’s Marijuana Taxes to Fund Health & Social Initiatives in 2017

marijuana taxes fund healthcare initiatives

(From the 2017 archives)

Unless you love spreadsheets, calculations, and economic policy, chances are you’d rather eat your sock than spend five minutes talking about state budgets and taxes.

But, this year’s Colorado budget – specifically the use of the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund – is reason to perk up and pay attention.

Signed just last week, the 2017-2018 Long Appropriations Bill looks to address some of the more serious problems facing our beautiful state.

And, as if marijuana wasn’t popular enough (generating well over $1 billion in sales last year), 4 of 5 “noteworthy items” addressed in this year’s budget will receive at least partial funding from the state’s Marijuana Tax Cash Fund.

  • Housing for at-risk populations
  • Addressing unregulated “gray market” medical marijuana activity
  • School health professionals grant program
  • Addressing mental health & substance abuse in the criminal justice system

So without any bothersome decimals or equations, let’s run through how this year’s budget allocates Colorado’s cannabis cash cache.

Housing for At-Risk Populations

Just over $15 million from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund will be allocated to provide “permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing assistance for individuals with behavioral health needs, and for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.”

By investing in supportive housing programs, Colorado is working to reduce incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness for many of the state’s most vulnerable citizens.

Addressing Unregulated “Gray Market” Medical Marijuana Activity

Just about $6 million from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund will go to reimburse local governments for help regulating and prosecuting gray and black marijuana markets.

School Health Professionals Grant Program

The Department of Education received nearly $10 million from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to bolster a program that helps place qualified health professionals in secondary schools. This will increase access to education as well as important health services for many students.

Addressing Mental Health in Colorado’s Criminal Justice System

The new budget sets aside $7 million from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to help provide treatment for mental health and substance abuse issues in lieu of incarceration.

More than half of the U.S. prison population suffers from at least one mental health problem. On the other side of the same coin, fewer than 1 in 10 individuals with a drug dependency receive the specialized treatment they need, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA).

A study published in 2012 found that moving drug dependent offenders through community-based treatment programs rather than prison could save billions of dollars while reducing the likelihood of relapse. And, the same logic holds true for many individuals struggling with mental health problems.

This may not be how you would have opted to spend the money if you woke up with an extra $100 million in your bank account. But for many local communities and Coloradoans in need, this year’s allocation of the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund comes as a welcome ray of hope.

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