As we wind our way through the end of winter, let’s take a minute to look at the balance sheet of Colorado’s wonderful experiment known as Legal Weed. First of all, let’s roll/light/smoke one for the geniuses who proposed the idea of tying the taxes raised by the sales of cannabis to Colorado’s education budget; when discussing state taxes, there’s this giant, nebulous blob known as the General Fund, and the money that lands in there is basically free game for whichever politician is able to wheel, deal, and convince the rest of his or her compadres of the best use for the cash available during the budget year in question. Whether the folks in Denver manage this fund well is certainly up for debate from time to time. But we are not here to complain, we are here to celebrate the cannabis windfall spurred by Amendment 64.
Approximately 30 percent of the price that you pay for bud (or oil, hash, other smokeables, tinctures, edibles, etc.) at the register is made up of a variety of taxes including regular and special state sales taxes and regular and special local sales taxes. These added up to nearly $130 million in 2015 and more than $150 million in 2016. The first $40 million of each fiscal year is earmarked for use in the BEST (Building Excellent Schools Today) Program, a “construction grant program … [which] focuses on helping public schools with a multitude of capital construction needs, from new roofs and boilers to major renovations and new schools.”
This is the type of program that will, over time, keep the state’s public schools ahead of the curve of entropy and will create great learning environments for the schoolchildren of the next generation.
After the state’s commitment to the $40 million for the BEST Program is met, the funds from cannabis taxes are distributed by way of the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund, or MTCF, among a wide range of departments throughout Colorado, including Education, which oversees anti-bullying and dropout-prevention programs, among others; Human Services, to coordinate services directed toward youth mentoring, substance treatment, and mental health; a wide variety of other programs helping to provide analysis of the money used within these programs to educate the public about cannabis issues, and to self-fund cannabis programs at the state and local levels.
As these programs develop over time, there are sure to be some interesting and creative positive uses of the funds generated by cannabis sales. Pueblo County, for example, recently ratified a measure earmarking $425,000 collected from excise taxes on cannabis cultivation to create a scholarship fund for high school students matriculating to colleges within the county.
It is nice to know that some part of the money we pay to support our cannabis intake is being used to support ends that we can feel good about – a nice little karmic circle. With that in mind, extra-enjoy as you partake this week, and keep the goodwill flowing.
Christopher Gallagher lives with his wife and their four dogs and two horses. Life is pretty darn good. Contact him at [email protected].