Colorado has long since known to be one of the most progressive states in the nation. The news of legalizing marijuana took the nation by storm, and since that day, the taxes from marijuana sales have been used to increase infrastructure and take some of the burdens off of the local communities.
Most recently, a bill was signed by Governor Jared Polis that would allocate $5 million from these marijuana tax dollars into a noble cause, getting addicts sober.
The Marijuana Tax
Addiction has become one of the most prevalent causes of death in the United States over the last ten years. Dozens of states nationwide have taken to suing pharmaceutical companies to cover some of the damages and treatment costs for their state.
Colorado, however, is turning to a more promising option. Since 2012, the year Colorado started taxing marijuana sales, their revenue has continued to increase exponentially. For example:
- 2014 – around $4 million
- 2015 – around $14 million
- 2016 – over $19 million
- 2017 – around $24 million
- 2018 – around $24 million
- 2019 – so far around $24 million
That is almost $120 million in tax revenue in only 5 years – why other states are not taking note of this and following suit is incomprehensible.
With this steady stream of income, the state has agreed to funnel $5 million per year into treatment programs for addicts in Colorado.
Bill19-001 is the name of the bill, and it will be directly funding Colorado’s Medication Assisted Treatment programs in 9 countries around the state. As of yet, MAT programs have been the most effective front in the battle against addiction in the state of Colorado.
According to Nancy Beste, owner of the Road to Recovery MAT program treatment center, “This program is working better than any program I’ve ever seen.” The Road to Recovery program currently houses about 95 patients who are sobering up from narcotics ranging from Oxy to Meth.
Unlike with many other traditional forms of substance-abuse treatment facilities, Nancy’s program has seen a 90% success rate with her patients in the year that they have been open. This may not sound like a very long test subject, but when it comes to addicts, it’s incredible.
The way MAT programs differ from other traditional forms of substance abuse treatment is that they are “medication-assisted” which eliminates the initial craving and withdrawal phase from the picture.
One of the main reasons why so many people who struggle with addiction turn to relapse, is because cravings for drugs such as painkillers, benzodiazepines, and especially methamphetamines are extremely intense. The drugs administered in MAT programs essentially eliminate those cravings.
Naltrexone and Buprenorphine are the drugs used, and they have been designed to block the receptors in the brain that function with drug abuse. Not only do they eliminate cravings, but they also prevent drugs such as heroin and other opioids from working at all. The patient cannot get a feeling of euphoria off of the administered dose, and they reduce the withdrawal period to almost nothing.
According to a previous patient of Road to Recovery, Melanie McDowell, who gave an interview with a local Steamboat Springs newspaper, she has found a new life as a result of attending the program.
“A year ago I was sitting on my bathroom floor smoking meth”, she stated, “Now I helped get a bill passed.”
McDowell had lost everything before her stay in a MAT facility. After the death of her mother in 2017, she relapsed on meth and lost custody of her children. The day finally came for her where she couldn’t take it anymore and entered into Road to Recovery. She reported having no cravings or withdrawal symptoms as of her second day and has been sober ever since.
Her only complaint is that her maintenance medication, the Vivitrol (brand name for Naltrexone) shot, which is intended to be administered monthly, costs over $1,000. Many recovering Coloradans such as Melanie are unable to afford their maintenance injections. Their hope is that eventually, some of the marijuana tax dollars can go towards funding their Vivitrol shots.
Beste, owner of Road to Recovery, feels the same. She also admits that while she loves her work, she cannot fit everyone through her doors. She hopes that some funding will help open new facilities that will allow more Coloradans access to the help and sobriety they so desperately need.
Will it Work?
While the bill is still in its infantile stage, there are no indications as to why allocating marijuana tax dollars towards substance abuse treatment would be an issue.
Many people feel opposed to MAT programs as they agree that there is no “magic pill” to help addicts stay sober. This is where the 12 step fellowships come into play. It is wonderful to get people to stop getting high, but it is another thing entirely to have an addict or alcoholic be “dry”.
Addiction has been officially diagnosed as a mental health disease, and with that comes multiple levels of treatment. Getting off the drugs is only the first part. 12 step and other recovery programs work towards rebuilding lives and reshaping the way people with addiction behave and interact with the world around them.
If the bill goes according to plan, and the success is evident, American’s could only hope that some of the other states suffering from ever rising overdose death rates will follow suit.