First-time visitors to downtown Denver normally comment on two things: The growing number of marijuana stores and the growing homeless population.
In a bold move, Gov. John Hickenlooper this week announced a plan to take tax revenues from marijuana sales and use it to help solve Colorado’s homeless crisis.
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“My argument … is we spend more than twice as much … perpetuating lives of misery by letting people live under bridges than we would getting them into housing and giving them wrap-around services — by which I mean, job training at the top of the list, counseling for addictions and medications for mental health,” Hickenlooper said.
Hickenlooper’s plan would take $12.3 million in marijuana tax revenues and spend it on housing units for the state’s homeless population. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Colorado had more than 10,ooo homeless citizens. At full capacity, the state currently has only 7,000 beds to offer.
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Colorado is not unique. Nationally, more than 3.5 million people experience homelessness each year. More than one third of the homeless population are families with children, which is the fastest growing segment of the homeless population. Nearly 25 percent are military veterans.
But Colorado would become the first state to use tax revenue from marijuana sales and use it to help solve homelessness.
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The state already sends $40 million in taxes collected from cannabis to school construction programs. The rest of the taxes have been earmarked for health care, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and law enforcement.
According to the Denver Post, Hickenlooper’s proposal would put $16.3 million in marijuana tax revenues and another $2 million in general tax collections a year toward three new programs to address affordable housing and homeless issues. The package includes:
- $12.3 million to build 1,200 new permanent housing units for chronically homeless individuals and 300 additional units for those with periodic homelessness in the first five years.
- $4 million to acquire or construct 354 housing units paired with behavioral health services.
- $2 million in incentives to add 250 affordable housing units for senior citizens and those facing rising prices from gentrification.
- The Colorado Coalition for the Homeless lauded the creation of a dedicated source of money for these programs.
One Colorado city, Aurora, already spends some money from cannabis sales to help its homeless population. The state’s third-largest city announced earlier this year that it will set aside $1.5 million to assist in city efforts to help the homeless.
Highway is an essential source for cannabis science, how-to stories and demystifying marijuana. Want to read more? Thy these posts: The Majority Of Americans Now Want Legal Marijuana, Seattle’s Swankiest Marijuana Store Opens Its Doors, and Opioids Out, Cannabis In, Top Medical Research Journal Says.