AURORAN: Kushy Cash — The Wonders of Weed Money


    There’s no problem that tax revenue from Colorado’s marijuana industry can’t solve.

    Crumbling infrastructure? Throw the pot money at it. New schools to be built? Give ‘em a satchel of weed revenue. That burnt-out street lamp that Old Man Samuels down on First Avenue keeps complaining about? You get the picture.

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    Except that picture is just wishful thinking on the part of most residents. As giddy as most folks are that the Centennial State had the temerity to embrace the recreational weed industry a few years back, the ways in which it was sold to voters — coupled with your average voter’s ignorance of what actually goes on in local and state government — led a good deal of people to just assume that tax revenues from wacky tobaccky would Fix Everything.

    Ladies and gentlemen, that was not the case.

    While Colorado gets big headlines every time a new round of sales tax revenues from the state’s pot industry breaks a record, the reality is that the largesse isn’t spread around as liberally as a fat joint in a circle of responsible adults in their own homes within all legal rights.

    Voters did a bit to fix that at the state level last November, approving Proposition BB to let the state hold onto about $66 million in revenue for stuff like a school construction fund and programs for substance-abuse prevention and treatment.

    But A-Town and its gradual, regimented embrace of mary jane? The answer for what to do with all that money — about $4.5 million over the course of three years — came earlier this year when Aurora City Council members announced they’ll budget it to help fight homelessness in the Aurora area.

    About $1.5 million for budget years 2017 and 2018 will be spent on homeless services — that’s on top of $1.5 million already in the current year’s budget. Some of that money — $220,000, to be precise — is earmarked for the Colfax Community Network, which was in “extremely dire straits” financially before the city’s move, according to Aurora neighborhood services director Nancy Sheffield.

    Mayor Steve Hogan saw a unique opportunity to save the nonprofit this year in hopes that other municipalities and donors will step up to recognize their work.

    “I believe there’s a value to it beyond just what it does,” Hogan said of the nonprofit. “That value is that it’s an organization that’s been around for years. Organizations that have been around for years tend to catch the eye of funding foundations. The problem with Colfax Community Network is, in my view, there were a lot of well-intentioned people who had no idea how to go out and get money. That’s why they’re in trouble now. Saving it makes sense to me.”

    Combating homelessness in an age of ever-inflated housing prices as been a hallmark of what’s being said down at City Hall this year. Thanks to pot purchasers, Aurora is now putting some money where its mouth is. Consider this a chance for oft-maligned politicians to say, “Put that in your pipe and smoke it.”