Marijuana legalization does many things. It lets, for instance, people use their drug of choice without fear of arrest, and it eliminates a dangerous black market for pot. But one Colorado city, Aurora, is leveraging its tax revenue from legalization for something else: to combat homelessness.
According to the Huffington Post, the city will direct $1.5 million in tax revenues from recreational marijuana to programs that support homeless residents. For example, the Colfax Community Network, which helps families living in motels, will get $200,000.
Although it's obviously a lot of money for a layperson, $1.5 million isn't actually that big in government budget terms — Aurora's general budget, for example, is more than $320 million. But even though marijuana legalization won't solve any big budget crises, any extra revenue is nice, especially if it allows the funding of programs that wouldn't get money otherwise.
Colorado, for instance, committed the first $40 million of marijuana excise tax revenue to public school construction. Maybe the legislature would have found money to fund those projects before, but maybe not.
Is all of this worth the cost of legalization, particularly more people possibly using and abusing pot? Drug policy experts say that it's too hard to know just yet. It's possible that legalization will lead to a lot more pot use. And with greater marijuana use could come dependence and overuse, accidents, non-deadly overdoses that lead to mental anguish and anxiety, and psychotic episodes. But it's not clear how much legalization will affect levels of use.
While we get that answer, though, homeless people in Aurora will be getting a bit more support.