Legal weed in Colorado is giving homeless people homes and fighting opioid addiction

Legal weed in Colorado is giving homeless people homes and fighting opioid addiction

VicesJune 01, 2017 By Isabelle Kohn

Colorado has made a shit ton of tax revenue off recently legalized weed, and 2016 was no exception.

Just last year, the state raked in more than $100 million in retail pot taxes, filling its pockets with a fat wad of cash that a new budget bill requires be funneled back into the hands of plebs like you and me for community improvement. In particular, the budget will direct weed money towards housing for the homeless, health screening in public schools, addiction treatment and regulating the marijuana industry — all things that have historically struggled with funding before the giant, green cash cow that is marijuana started dispensing Benjamins left and right from her udders of love. Aww!

The largest chunk of change from the Marijuana Cash Fund, as it's called, will go towards addressing the needs of the state's massive homelessness problem. A pretty $15.3 million has been allocated for supportive housing and other services for the homeless, the goal being to keep them out of prisons and hospitals by supplying them with safe, affordable housing.

An existing program that implants real, functional health care professionals in public and charter schools will also get $9.7 million, so that “education, universal screening, referral, and care coordination for students with substance abuse and other behavioral health needs" will be available for those who need them.  Another program that helps keep mentally ill people out of jail and finds appropriate services for them will get $7.1 million, and law enforcement will be fed, baby-bird style, $5.9 million to address the underground marijuana market. Makes sense — the state doesn't cash in from weed sales that happen under the radar of the law, so it wants to be sure to put an end to gray or black market deals.

But wait, dry your eyes! There's more.

The state is also using weed money to do something about the exploding problem of opioid addiction by funding a two-year pilot program that'll train physician assistants and nurse practitioners in how to adequately and compassionately treat it. Five-hundred thousand dollars for that, a surprisingly low number considering that opioid overdose has killed 200,000 adults this century and is the leading cause of accidental death in this country, but, hey! At least it's something. And if a couple hundred Coloradans hadn't purchased that gram of Giggling Grape OG Kush, that program might not have anything at all.

Thanks, stoners. You're truly making the world a better place, one Pink Floyd pizza bagel at a time.

Of course, all these programs are dependent on whether the Department of Justice continues to take a position of apathy towards Colorado and the other five states that have legalized recreational pot. With the anti-weed way things are going in this administration, and Attorney General Jeff Session's well-documented distrust of marijuana, things could easily sour for Sour Diesel and the funding for programs that address things like homelessness, mental illness and substance abuse could be lost.

However, while we exist in the incredibly new and privileged world of legal weed and its seemingly endless positive profits, we might as well use what resources we have while we have them to improve things for the people that need it the most, something it seems Colorado is really excelling at. So, how about this: let's take the rest of 2017 to get as high (or medicated ... or both) as we possibly can on legal weed, as frequently as is necessary, and hopefully, someone, somewhere, will have a roof over their heads for at least a little while before Trump tries to tear it down.