Just over two years after the state of Colorado implemented the legal sale and use of recreational marijuana, Pueblo Co., in the south-central region, is using tax proceeds from the sale of the drug to fund college scholarships for 25 in-county students.
The underwriting of college financial aid for low-income students with money collected from marijuana producers and consumers is a first in U.S. history, but it’s not the only initiative Colorado has taken to put the newly legalized industry’s revenue towards a public good.
County governments throughout the Rocky Mountain State are using tax funds that totaled $135 million in 2015 to finance public works like school infrastructure projects, provide services to the homeless and give pay raises to public-sector workers.
In 2o16, marijuana industry experts predict Colorado’s marijuana sales revenues will reach $1 billion.
Critics of the legal marijuana economic system, however, point out that most of the revenue collected from sales and grower fees is spent on regulating commerce and enforcing subsequent laws related to the drug.
Health advocates in Colorado are also working to curtail the use of the drug, citing it partially as a hazard to children.
In 2014, Pueblo Co., passed a local initiative to designate 50 percent of the drug’s sales proceeds for college scholarships, and the rest for public works and medical marijuana research. Despite the program’s apparent success, a group called Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo is spear-heading an effort to petition for a subsequent ballot proposal that would completely outlaw the sale of marijuana county-wide.
One of the group’s members is the president and CEO of St. Mary-Corwin Medical Center in Pueblo, and claims that in March “nearly half of the newborns at (the county hospital) who were drug-tested due to suspected prenatal exposure tested positive for marijuana.”
Despite the campaign, the executive director of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation is grateful the money is at least going towards a worthy cause.
“We haven’t felt very much push-back from the community [about using marijuana tax funds],” said director Beverly Duran. “People seem to think, well, if it’s going to be legalized, might as well put those dollars to work for our kids.”
And those dollars are only expected to keep piling up over the next decade, according to experts in the field.
In 2015, total U.S. sales from legal recreational and medical marijuana totaled $1.3 billion. By 2020, revenue is projected to reach a staggering $23 billion if California legalizes recreational use, which the state will vote on in November as a ballot proposition.
[USA Today] [RT News] [Image courtesy marijuana.com]