Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper has finalized a 2018 state budget that calls for millions of dollars in taxes generated from the legal cannabis industry to be allocated for a new program to help the homeless.
Reports show that Hickenlooper’s latest budget proposal would pull $18 million from the state’s cannabis tax coffers and put it toward building affordable housing for people who are either homeless or suffering with mental health issues that prevent them securing a place to live.
It is a program that he has been eager to launch for years, says Hickenlooper’s budget director Henry Sobanet.
“Taking what used to be an illegal activity, now that it’s legal and taxable, using it to address another social ill is an opportunity we felt important to take advantage of, and one that would make some sense to the public," Sobanet recently told Colorado Public Radio.
In addition, the governor has also allocated $16 million in marijuana taxes to support a measure designed to prevent the black market marijuana trade from operating inside the grey areas of the state’s legal cannabis industry.
But Hickenlooper’s new plan will cut the state’s budget to the tune of $28.5 billion, putting les money into education, hospitals and road construction, according to the Denver Post. These cuts will pull around $45 million out of the pockets of school districts, and hospitals will lose somewhere near $195 million in provider fees – all to help close the gap on the state’s $500 million deficit.
“I think what you can see is health care, education, transportation, the biggest areas of the budget are bearing the brunt of these balancing issues," Sobanet told CPR.
Interestingly, there was a proposal introduced earlier this year in Los Angeles, California intended to put $1.78 billion of the city’s medical marijuana taxes into building affordable housing for the homeless. However, the measure, which would have spread the money over the course of 10 years, was eventually scrapped due to some of the uncertainly surrounding the recreational sector that could come soon into play following the upcoming election.
In 2014, some Colorado homeless shelters blamed legal marijuana on the growing number of homeless people migrating into the state. Yet there is no data to support this claim.