Health, Homelessness And The Opioid Crisis: Colorado Finalizes Cannabis Tax Plan

The government of Colorado has finalized plans to infuse cannabis tax money into school health programs, housing for the state’s at-risk populations, and a new program aimed at fighting the opioid epidemic.

Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a budget bill on Friday that determines how cash from Colorado’s ‘Marijuana Tax Cash Fund’ will be distributed.

The state garnered more than $105 million from cannabis taxes for the 2016-17 fiscal year. Cannabis sales were up 30 percent in the first few months of 2017 compared to the same time frame last year, with state stores selling $235 million in product.

The state’s new budget allocates $15.3 million in cannabis tax revenue to “permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing assistance for individuals with behavioral health needs, and for individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness.”

The money will help “reduce incarceration, hospitalization, and homelessness for many of Colorado’s most vulnerable citizens”, according to Hickenlooper’s office.

Another $7.1 million will go toward “ending the use of jails for holding people who are experiencing a mental health crisis” by improving access to “more appropriate services outside the criminal justice system.”

The Colorado Department of Education is also set to receive $9.7 million to develop a grant program that will pay for 150 health care workers to tour high schools and offer “education, universal screening, referral, and care coordination for students with substance abuse and other behavioral health needs.”

Half a million dollars in cannabis taxes has also been allocated to fund a pilot program that will deploy nurses and physician assistants to help combat the opioid crisis in particularly hard-hit regions.

h/t VICE News Canada

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