Imagine that if every time you purchased legal cannabis, a percentage of that money went towards putting a student through college. Sounds pretty wonderful, right? Well, in one Colorado county, that is now a reality.
Earlier this week, commissioners from Pueblo County announced a cannabis-funded college scholarship for high school students graduating in the spring of 2017. The fund is considered the first scholarship fund in the country comprised mostly of tax revenue from marijuana sales.
The Pueblo County Scholarship will be offered to students that will be attending Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University-Pueblo in the fall of 2017. The scholarship fund totals almost $475,000, $425,000 of which comes straight from marijuana tax revenue. The remainder is funded by a state government-run scholarship program.
“A couple years ago, these are dollars that would have been going to the black market, drug cartels ... now money that used to fund drug cartels is now being used to fund college scholarships,” Pueblo County commissioner Sal Pace told local news station KKTV.
Ever since cannabis was legalized in Colorado, tax revenue has been heavily invested into public education, as well as mental health and law enforcement. Last year, the state raked in a total of $1.3 billion in recreational and medical cannabis sales, equating to nearly $200 million in tax revenue.
In Pueblo County, a 2 percent tax is applied to each transaction between local cannabis cultivators and retailer. This tax will increase one point over the next three year until it maxes out at 5 percent. The one-time tax is charged to the grower when their product is first sold or transferred to a retailer, and the Pueblo County Scholarship is the funded by at least half of that total tax revenue.
According to the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners, each qualifying high school graduate will receive around $1,000 each year, while the leftover funding will be given to select students based on merit and need.
Colorado’s noble use of marijuana tax revenue has become the model approach for other states setting up their own recreational markets. Needless to say, legal cannabis in the Rocky Mountain State has improved public education immensely. Who knows, maybe someday your own purchased buds could help put a student through college.