Marijuana business in Colorado is booming. In 2016, the state collected over 100 million dollars in marijuana tax revenue from legal sales. In 2017, the state has already seen its marijuana profits increase by 30% from the level it was at this point last year. Clearly, the state is ecstatic about the increased revenue. The only question that remained was where and how the new funds would be allocated.
Where Will The Money Go?
That question was answered recently when Gov. John Hickenlooper signed a “long-bill” budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year. The bill uses money from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund to fund things such as schools, nurses trained specifically to deal with the opioid epidemic, and housing for at-risk individuals.
According to the Colorado government, “This budget provides $15.3 million from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund 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.”
Protection For Those With Mental Illness
The bill will also include funding to criminal justice reform for prisoners with mental health conditions. As stated in the bill signed by Hickenlooper, “Through SB17-207, the Department of Human Services received $7.1 million from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund 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.”
Why Taxation And Regulation Of Marijuana Is Important
The initiatives that will be receiving funding from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund would be without the extra cash were it not for the regulation and taxation of marijuana sales in Colorado. Its been said many times, but Colorado is clearly the gold standard of marijuana legalization. The state’s marijuana sales program is not without its faults however. The reason Colorado continues raising the bar for legal marijuana programs is the fact that they address issues as the arise.
The Dangers of the Growing Gray Market
One major issue with marijuana’s legal status in Colorado is the growing “gray market.” The term gray market refers to the illegal sales of marijuana that is grown legally. Governor Hickenlooper, stated that the gray market is a “clear and present danger.”
The biggest concern of the governor and others is that marijuana grown legally in Colorado is being sold in neighboring states like Nebraska where it is illegal.
The recently signed bill reflects the governor’s concerns by allocating almost 6 million dollars to “combat and prevent the illegal diversion of medical marijuana to unregulated markets, or “gray market” activity.”
As with anything, marijuana legalization doesn’t come without its flaws. That’s why it is important to address those issues as they arise. Colorado and Governor Hickenlooper are taking the right steps by taking resources gained by legal marijuana sales and putting them back into improving the safety and efficacy of the program. As marijuana tax revenues continue to skyrocket in Colorado, it will be nearly impossible for other states to argue with the model that has been put forward.