Letter: Finance housing, treatment with cannabis tax

Graphic by Lori Deaton

We have the money to house the homeless. We have the money to help those who are struggling with alcohol and substance use [to] access long-term treatment. We have the money to assist those struggling with mental health to gain access to medications and treatment.

In the face of federal and state legislatures that seem to be unwilling to come to terms with the deadly opioid crisis, the staggering lack of access to mental health care, and the lack of affordable housing options, then Asheville and Buncombe County must act. Due to the legislature’s denial and consequently the lack of coherent policy or plan, Asheville and Buncombe County can lead the way with a creative and coherent plan to provide adequate access to care for people who are struggling with addiction and mental health.

I propose we lobby the Asheville City Council and the Asheville City Council candidates as well as the Buncombe County commissioners to place cannabis at the local level on the “lowest level priority” registry for law enforcement.

For example, those citizens who would like to “opt in” would register at City Hall for $250 annually for permission to possess up to 1 ounce. So, if a police officer stops you and you have your “certificate,” you are clear to go (for under 1 ounce). This “tax” would aid in the financing of affordable housing and treatment for those who need it.

Additionally, it pleases those more fiscally conservative by offsetting the impact of the elimination of revenue from punitive measures such as fines. Further, this would keep “low-level” offenders out of the system and out of treatment to free up the spots for those people who truly need to be in treatment, thus reducing costs and increasing effectiveness. We can do this, Asheville!

— Bo Hess


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