A Colorado county has achieved the unusual distinction of becoming the first place in the world to offer college scholarships funded entirely by marijuana money.
Last week in Colorado’s Pueblo County, voters cast their ballot on a number of proposals, with almost all of them “having something to do with marijuana,” according to Time. More remarkable was the fact that more than sixty percent of voters approved a measure that will phase in an increase in taxes — 5 percent by 2020 — on marijuana growers to fund college scholarships and other community projects. If we were to consider the total marijuana money available to lawmakers, the Colorado ballot measure allows them to spend $66.1 million in taxes collected from the sale of recreational marijuana.
According to WTKR, half of the taxes will go towards funding college scholarships in Colorado. This is first time that any administration in the world will offer college scholarships to its students funded by marijuana money.
Paris Carmichael, a spokesperson for Pueblo County, said that marijuana taxes will go towards funding scholarships for high school graduates in Pueblo to attend local colleges, and based on its outcome, the program could be expanded in the future.
“The whole point of the scholarship program was to make higher education a reality for families who can’t afford to send their kids to school because of debt.”
Administrators in Colorado have expressed optimism over the program, charting out the number of students who are to directly make use of the first round of the funding. Almost 400 students will be awarded $1,000 each year thanks to marijuana-tax scholarships, but the exact payout and number of recipients will vary based on the number of applications.
But while marijuana taxes have surely filled state coffers, some administrators believe the challenge for Colorado has only just begun. Tyler Henson, the president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said it is important that the state regulate marijuana usage in such a way that prospective students do not lose their way.
“It’ll be interesting to see how we balance that, telling kids to stay away from these products until they’re 21 but creating a reliance on the product paying for their schooling.”
Apart from funding college scholarships, voters also voted on the other ways they would want the marijuana taxes to be spent. According to Denver Post, the the most popular choice has been using the money for construction of schools, while a substantial $12 million has been earmarked for youth and substance-abuse programs in the state.
Ever since Pueblo County in Colorado announced its plans to fund college scholarships using marijuana taxes, there has been some hue and cry in political circles about the move. Some allege that things like school construction and college scholarships have been tied with marijuana money so that voters inevitably end up voting in its favor, as was the case when voters cast their vote to make the drug legal in Colorado in the first place.
“The original proponents of Amendment 64 were very clever… to tie pot taxes to school construction, even though the two have zero to do with each other,” Mike Krause, a spokesman for Independence Institute, said about the choice available to voters. “It made it an easy choice for a lot of voters.”
However, advocates of the program say making such remarks is only a means for detractors to divert the attention from the central issue, which is, whether or not marijuana money can be used for the development of youngsters in the state, of which funding college scholarships is only one measure. And if that — only that — is taken into consideration, it does seem like Colorado is making the right choices at the moment.
[Photo by Chris Hondros / Getty Images]