Colorado governor John Hickenlooper signed a budget bill on Friday that earmarks how marijuana tax revenue will be spent. Marijuana is still big business in Colorado, and tax revenue from the 2016-2017 fiscal year brought more than $105 million to the state’s “Marijuana Cash Fund.”
The bill allocates funds to programs that support health programs in public schools, housing for at-risk populations, and treatment programs aimed at combating the opioid epidemic.
Housing for at-risk populations:
$15.3 million of the tax revenue will be used 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. By providing stable housing, which includes rental assistance and supportive services, we expect to reduce incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness for many of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens.”
Addressing Mental Health in Colorado’s Criminal Justice System:
The Department of Human Services will receive $7.1 million aimed at “ending the use of jails for holding people who are experiencing a mental health crisis, and to implement criminal justice diversion programs at the local level. These initiatives will help direct individuals with immediate mental health and substance needs to more appropriate services outside the criminal justice system.”
School Health Professionals Grant Program:
Colorado’s Department of Education will receive $9.7 million. The money will go towards hiring 150 health care workers who will visit high schools statewide to provide “education, universal screening, referral, and care coordination for students with substance abuse and other behavioral health needs.”
Unregulated “Gray Market” Medical Marijuana Activity:
$5.9 million will be doled out to combat the gray market–marijuana diverted from the regulated medical and recreational markets and sold in the unregulated market. Funds will go towards reimbursing local governments for law enforcement and prosecutions costs. In addition, the governor signed legislation that places a new 12-plant cap on the number of plants that can be possessed or grown on a residential property.
Medication-Assisted Treatment Program for Opioid Addiction:
Finally, Hickenlooper signed a bill that allocates $500,000 per year for the next two years towards creating a pilot program to expand access to medication-assisted treatment in Pueblo and Routt, two Colorado counties hit hard by the opioid epidemic.