Medical pot taxes could save addiction treatment

DENVER — Some state lawmakers want marijuana taxes to save a drug and alcohol treatment program threatened by Colorado budget cuts.

A House committee voted Friday to use $1 million of sales taxes collected from medical marijuana sales next year to fund the Circle Program at the Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo. That program stands to lose $1 million — two-thirds of its funding — under the budget proposed by Gov. John Hickenlooper.

The Circle Program treats people who suffer from mental illness and drug or alcohol addiction. It employs about 30 people.

The money lawmakers pulled from marijuana taxes already goes to treating drug and alcohol problems. The 7-6 vote by the House Appropriations Committee Friday simply directs all the money to the Circle Program. The full House will consider the change when the bill goes to the full chamber, likely next week.


The Circle Program change had the backing of Republican Rep. Tom Massey, who sponsored the bill that makes several changes to last year`s sweeping marijuana regulation law. Some lawmakers argued the money may be better spent elsewhere, but Massey was circumspect about the opposition.

Massey said that given the tight budget, “we`re down to arguing about pennies at this point.”

Massey predicted a robust debate about the funding change — and there`s plenty more in the marijuana bill to spark arguments.

The measure is billed as a series of small improvements to last year`s sweeping marijuana law, but it makes some pretty significant changes.

The bill extends a moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries by one year, to summer 2012. It also changes several rules governing how pot businesses operate.

First, it relaxes a ban on new residents working in dispensaries. Lawmakers last year set a two-year residency requirement, fearing that outsiders were flooding into Colorado to sell pot. The change retains a two-year residency requirement for owners, but not employees.


The bill also gives dispensaries new rules for keeping medical records private and limits makers of infused products such as pot brownies to 500 plants.


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