The city of Aurora, Colorado is helping its homeless residents with its marijuana tax revenue. As the third-largest city in the state, Aurora’s contributions to alleviating the homeless problem has been a remarkable success for destitute residents and a shining example of the good that can be done with marijuana tax revenue.
Aurora’s Experiment With The Cannabis Market
Aurora entered into the cannabis market very slowly in order to keep the industry from growing too big or too concentrated within its borders. The city allowed just 24 recreational pot dispensaries to operate. For context, Denver has nine times as many recreational and medical weed shops.
Despite the relatively limited dispensary count within its jurisdiction, Aurora was projected to bring in $10 million in tax revenue in 2018. Since the recreational market started from 2014 to 2018, Aurora has brought in more than $27 million in tax revenue.
City officials had decided to allocate money from the cannabis tax and the regular sales tax toward road and transportation projects, two new recreation centers, and a homeless program. City officials have spent the largest amount, $7.3 million, to provide homeless services and housing for the community.
Homeless Services Funded By Weed
Aurora made headlines when city officials announced that $1.5 million from marijuana tax revenue would support the homeless population. Shortly after the announcement, the city funded a number of non-profits including the Colfax Community Network, a nonprofit that supports families living in motels.
In 2017, Aurora opened its doors to a new day resource center on the Anschutz Medical Campus to complement the Comitis Crisis Center where many individuals find overnight shelter, but must leave early in the morning.
At the day resource center, people can get housing assistance, employment services, financial literacy, access to the computer lab and clothing, hygiene items, breakfast and lunch, medication, health services, and job training. The center also acts as an emergency cold weather shelter.
New Recreation Center In 2019 from Legal Marijuana
In May 2019, Aurora opened a new recreation center funded by legal marijuana. The Aurora Central Recreation Center has a gymnasium with six basketball hoops, a wave pool and water slides, a fitness center, teaching kitchen, multi-purpose rooms, and local art.
The new recreation center was the first of its kind in the city in over 40 years. Visitors can now participate in a variety of classes for fitness, swimming, cooking, martial arts, and gymnastics. The rec center also offers summer and holiday camps, after-school programs, and activities for seniors.
Colorado Cities Invest In Community Services
Instead of balancing the general fund, many cities have heavily invested in their community with the tax revenue they bring in. For instance, Sedgwick County built a new community park and converted an old jail into a history museum.
Ridgeway County funded a number of small projects with money from cannabis. The town of about 930 in 2014 nearly doubled its annual budget due solely to new marijuana businesses. The town made much-needed purchases of a snowplow, a street cleaner, and two new vehicles for the town marshal to replace ones headed for the junkyard.
Parachute County’s town council decided to finally allow legal cannabis sales in 2015 after rejecting them back in 2013. As a result, they approved 6 recreational shops including the state’s first drive-through dispensary. Parachute’s tax revenue funded a new cop, invested in community basketball court upgrades, new campgrounds, and a new boat ramp.
Denver has used much of its tax revenue to improve roads and community parks, as well as invest in opioid abuse intervention programs and new affordable housing. The city has even more plans to use the money for “social good” according to Kendra Black, who chairs a city council committee focused on cannabis issues.
Billion-Dollar Cannabis Tax Revenue
In June 2019, Colorado officials disclosed that marijuana sales tax collection exceeded $1 billion since legal pot sales began in May 2014. Not only does the marijuana market create tens of thousands of jobs in the state, but it also generates revenue for community programs.
For the fiscal year 2018 to 2019, a majority of the revenue went to the marijuana tax cash fund, which helps fund health education, health care, substance abuse prevention programs, and law enforcement.
Since 2014, 31.7 percent of the marijuana tax cash fund budget was spent on human services. 20.7 percent was spent on public health and the environment. 16.4 percent was spent on education. 15.5 percent was spent on local affairs.
On a local level, Colorado’s marijuana taxes pay for a variety of community improvements and services. Medical and recreational cannabis sales are also subject to local taxes, which are intended for specific purposes. Aurora, Colorado is a leading example for cities across the country for providing creative solutions for the issue of homelessness.
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