A new senate bill was signed into law in Colorado this past Wednesday will allow revenue from cannabis sales to go services to help people addicted to opioids. This new bill is possible due to a recent revision of state’s statues of taxation of marijuana, which allow for the proceeds to be used, “to treat and provide related services to people with any type of substance use disorder, including those with co-occurring disorders, or to evaluate the effectiveness and sufficiency of substance use disorder services.”
The bill provides a half million dollars of cannabis revenue for at least the next two years to go towards the formulation of an effective opioid treatment for people within the state. The number of overdose deaths have doubled in Colorado since 2000 and the state has the second highest rate of prescription drug abuse in the country.
A proponent of the bill, Representative Brittany Pettersen of Lakewood, has been pushing for new movement in the state to fight the opioid epidemic, "Our state and nation are facing a health crisis and it is imperative we take action to support people who are suffering from this disease…For far too long, these people have been disregarded because of the stigma associated with addiction. But after years of overprescribing, a large portion of the population is addicted to pain pills. Everyone knows someone who is affected, and inaction is not an option,” said Pettersen.
The money set aside for this program will go to the University of Colorado Anschutz College of Nursing, which will be responsible for creating the program. The program will be piloted in communities most affected by opioid addiction. The pilot program will be implemented in Pueblo county in Southern Colorado and Routt county in Northern Colorado.
Pueblo county, specifically, holds only 6% of the Colorado population, but experiences 16% of heroine addiction cases. Senator Leroy Garcia, a representative from Pueblo believes this bill is a great step towards fighting opioid addiction, "There are many stories I have heard about families and their loved ones that struggle with opioid addiction. In our community of Pueblo, this epidemic has particularly harmed our young people, and is tearing homes apart, but there just aren't enough treatment options available. I know this bill is critical not just for Pueblo and Routt counties, but for all of Colorado, to expand access to treatment so we can take a modest, yet very important step in combating the opioid epidemic."
The program will train nurse practitioners and physicians assistants on how to prescribe medications and use alternative treatments for people suffering from opioid addictions. There will be an addition of behavioral therapy support provided to help local agencies in the counties that are going to be involved in the pilot program. Other organizations can also apply for grants from the College of Nursing for other opioid treatment programs. If these organizations receive grants, then they will be accountable to the College of Nursing, who will then be required to submit reports to the Senate Health Committee and Governor.
The bill will be implemented by January of 2018. This bill is complementary to Senate Bill 193 which provides one million dollars in cannabis revenue to go to the University of Colorado Health Science Center for Substance Abuse to provide resources for research. These bills are another major step towards helping people with opioid addiction and demonstrate how cannabis can help raise state revenues to provide funding to programs that are in need of financial support.