Colorado Will Use $105 Million in Pot Tax Revenue to Help Opioid Addiction, Mental Health

By Paul Gaita 06/08/17

Additional funds will also go to several jail-based mental health services and marijuana health research grants.

Hand holding a marijuana leaf floating above a pile of money.

Tax revenue earned from marijuana sales in the state of Colorado's 2016-2017 fiscal year, which topped $105 million, will be implemented to aid the state in combating substance use disorder (SUD), homelessness and mental health issues, among numerous other programs.

Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper enacted the distribution of funds on May 26 by signing SB17-254, a budget bill that will authorize the deposit of tax revenue from marijuana sales into two funds: the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) Fund and the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund (MTCF).

The former will dedicate the first $40 million in excise tax revenue to new school construction in the state, while the latter will use state sales tax revenue from medical and recreational marijuana sales—as well as 85% of special sales tax revenue—to fund health care and education, substance use disorder treatment and law enforcement, as well as oversight efforts for the state's marijuana industry.

For the fiscal year 2017-2018, Colorado will put $750,000 in tax dollars towards the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing to implement SUD screenings, intervention and referral treatment programs, while $6 million will go to the Department of Human Services to fund residential SUD treatment.

The Department of Public Health and Environment will receive more than $7 million for a public awareness marijuana education campaign and an additional $7 million-plus for drug abuse prevention efforts, marijuana health research grants and lab testing for marijuana, while the Department of Public Safety has been allocated almost $80,000 for the scientific study of marijuana law enforcement activities.

The Departments of Revenue and Transportation will receive nearly $8 million and $950,000, respectively, for its marijuana enforcement division and a marijuana-impaired driving campaign.

Additional funds will also be provided for several jail-based mental health services, including services and diversion for both juvenile and adult offenders, as well as programs to provide alternatives to jail at the local law enforcement level. Most significantly, the Department of Human Services will receive $7.1 million to keep individuals "experiencing a mental health crisis" from being held in jail.

Governor Hickenlooper also signed a second bill, SB-17-074, which will provide $500,000 annually to send trained medical professionals to Pueblo and Routt counties, which have only four doctors between them to provide medication-assisted treatment, despite skyrocketing drug overdose death rates.

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.