The booming marijuana business in Colorado appears to be benefiting the state in other ways, with plans to invest the profits weed has generated into some important state services. However, state officials have expressed concern that funding plans could be derailed by election of Donald Trump to the presidency and his appointment of a federal attorney general who opposes the legalization of marijuana.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper recently signed into law a budget measure that will allocate the taxes generated by the weed boom. Marijuana taxes brought in more than $100 million to the state during the 2016-2017 fiscal year. A large proportion of those taxes will go to public schools and to certain social programs.
Some $15 million in state funds will be used to provide housing or housing assistance to the homeless and to individuals with psychological problems. According to Hickenlooper, the funding is intended to tackle these issues and also to reduce the rate of incarceration. Approximately $7 million alone will target what he criticized as the use of jails to house those who are mentally ill. Hickenlooper said he considers this to a “more appropriate” use of tax dollars beyond the normal funding of the criminal system system.
Health services will also be an important part of the funding to Colorado’s schools. Nearly $10 million in marijuana taxes will be used in a program employing 150 workers who will screen and provide assistance to students with substance abuse and behavioral problems. In dealing specifically with drug addiction, the budget includes modest funding for a pilot program that will deploy nurses and medical assistants in two counties where the opioid epidemic has been particularly serious.
Whether this funding will continue or be allowed in the first place will depend upon the action of the federal government. Despite his previous statements, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has not intervened in state efforts to legalize marijuana. However, the current federal policy is expected to be reviewed by Steve Cook, who was brought in by Sessions to serve as his associate deputy and is known to be a hard-liner on drugs.
The use of marijuana for medical or recreational purposes has been legalized in eight U.S. states, including Colorado, and in the District of Columbia. A number of other states and American territories allow its use for medical reasons or at least will not prosecute those who possess small amounts of weed. However, federal laws still prohibit its use or possession.