A Colorado county’s marijuana tax revenue will be used to help local students pay for college.
A county in Colorado is using the tax revenue it collects from legal marijuana to fund college scholarships for its high school seniors.
Pueblo County spokeswoman Paris Carmichael announced earlier this month that its board of commissioners approved a contract that calls for the use of its excise tax collections from cannabis cultivation to create a $475,000 scholarship fund for its students. Pueblo County awarded 23 college scholarships totaling $50,000 last year.
“If we can continue growing this, this could be game-changing for Pueblo,” said Carmichael.
The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation will administer the scholarship funds, which will be distributed to Pueblo County high school seniors that attend college in Pueblo. Qualifying students will be awarded about $1,000 in aid.
According to Carmichael, typically 300 to 400 Pueblo high school students attend to Colorado State University or Pueblo Community College once graduating. In-state tuition for Pueblo Community College costs just over $3,000 annually, while a year at Cal State University-Pueblo costs approximately $6,000.
For the $475,000 scholarship fund, $425,000 will come from local excise tax revenue on marijuana grown in Pueblo County. The remaining $49,664 will come from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative.
“A couple of 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,” County commissioner Sal Pace told Pueblo news outlet KKTV.
Pueblo County applies a 2 percent excise tax on marijuana. The tax rate is set to increase by 1 percent each year until it reaches 5 percent. At least half of the money generated from marijuana excise taxes will go to the scholarship fund.
“It will grow annually because the excise tax increases annually,” Post noted to The Huffington Post. “We also expect many new farms to come online this year. Only roughly half of the licensed farms were operational in 2016.”
Applications, available on The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation website, are being accepted now and are due April 30. The Foundation says that it “focuses on removing financial as well as other barriers that might prevent students from securing an education and gaining employment.”
“It is so critically important to make college affordable for our youth if we want to provide long-term economic opportunity to our community,” said Pace, in a statement. “Too many kids can’t afford to go to college. With this program we are taking cannabis-tax revenue and using it to provide for a brighter future in Pueblo.”
Colorado, the first state to legalize and regulate adult use marijuana, generated nearly $200 million in marijuana tax revenue from sales of $1.3 billion in 2016. Colorado state is using marijuana tax revenue to fund 50 grants for combating bullying, while the city of Aurora is using its excess tax revenue to help feed, house, and support its homeless community.