Addiction Recovery Services Funded by Cannabis Tax

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Addiction Recovery Services Funded by Cannabis Tax

March 21, 2019

Denver, like most of the country, is dealing with an addiction epidemic. Solutions to the problem are out there, mostly in the form of treatment and mutual support groups to help people attain addiction recovery. However, the vast majority of those struggling with chemical dependency or co-occurring mental illnesses haven’t sought help.

From marijuana to opioid use, lives are adversely affected in the form of health consequences and legal woes. Even though lawmakers have a more progressive stance on addiction, some individuals’ drug use results in them being on the windy side of the law. While it is true that jail can be a wake-up call for those struggling with addiction, relapse and recidivism persist because of severe lack of support.

In recent years, a number of municipalities across the country have chosen to turn their back on the war on drugs, opting instead for a more humanitarian approach. Rather than being jailed, those caught in possession of illicit substances are given the option of substance abuse treatment. More and more city and county leaders, along with law enforcement, now realize that we cannot arrest away the problem of addiction in America. They understand that ending the scourge of addiction rests on providing support, not punishment. Alcohol and substance use disorders are not moral failings, they are life-threatening mental health disorders.

States decriminalizing cannabis is about social justice; it is not an endorsement of safety. As many readers know, Colorado was among the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use, along with Washington. Still, marijuana isn’t benign; it can lead to addiction, and recovery requires treatment and continued support. Millions of Americans meet the criteria for a cannabis use disorder; like any use disorder, addiction recovery – not jail – is the solution.

Taxing Cannabis to Pay for Addiction Recovery

Today, there are ten states permitting adult cannabis consumption. Lawmakers in such states, even those who support legalization, do not say that cannabis use is benign. They do acknowledge that some good can be done with all the tax revenue generated from cannabis sales – particularly in the way of funding addiction recovery and support services.

With the goal of reducing recidivism (returning to jail or prison following parole), Denver is launching a new pilot program called the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD), Colorado Public Radio reports. Low-level drug offenders can enroll in the program to avoid incarceration. LEAD case managers will connect participants to support services that include housing, addiction recovery treatment services, and vocational training.

“Too often folks with mental health issues, victims of trauma, folks with addiction issues find themselves in a revolving door of arrest, incarceration and repeat,” said Denver City Attorney Kristin Bronson. “And yet we never seem to address the underlying issues of what led them to being arrested and incarcerated to begin with.”

Denver County, along with three other communities will each receive up to $575,000 per year, for three years. The funding will come from the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund. Over the next three years, the Office of Behavioral Health Strategies will implement LEAD in three Denver police department districts. LEAD is expected to assist some 100 people this year; the participants’ recidivism rates will gauge the success of the program.

“Putting [people with drug addiction] in jail is a temporary fix, a Band-Aid approach,” said Chief Paul Pazen of the Denver Police. “By putting somebody in the city jail, in some areas, we are contributing to the problem. This is an opportunity to help people.”

Addiction Treatment with NorthStar Denver

Addiction recovery can become a reality for you or a loved one, and NorthStar Denver can help. We offer transformative recovery services in a close-knit, compassionate environment. Our services include detox, residential, and intensive outpatient programming. Please contact our team today to learn more.


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