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Tax-Funded Scholarships Introduced in Colorado


June 24, 2016

This brave new world of legalization means Colorado is at the forefront of tax distribution. As Denver’s shops thrive―with almost $1 billion in revenue for 2015 and $135 million in taxes and fees―the question becomes, how do we effectively funnel this tax money into local communities? $35 million is already earmarked for school construction projects; other tax funds will go to social programs. The numbers are growing each year, and with them, the opportunity to create other helpful programs.

What does this mean for consumers? When you shop at a Denver dispensary like Altitude, you are effectively putting some of your money towards tax-funded scholarships and other school programs.

The First of its Kind
One innovative application of the marijuana tax is the establishment of a scholarship program for prospective college students. The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation is offering $1,000 scholarships to 25 students with funds generated from the legal sale of marijuana at local dispensaries. County planners project that as many as 400 students per year will get the scholarship from a fund of $3.5 million by 2020. The voter-approved measure in Pueblo County applies a 5 percent excise tax on marijuana growers, meaning this is the first time scholarships are funded entirely by cannabis tax money.

As the first such program of its kind, but almost certainly not the last, we get an indication of the possibilities that the regulated cannabis industry represents. Treating marijuana as a retail commodity, in a regulated industry, results in a more transparent and safe market. Pueblo County has blazed this particular trail, and it stands to reason that the rest of the state will follow suit, especially considering the sheer number of weed shops in Denver, Boulder, and the surrounding areas.

Striking a Balance
The students who receive these scholarships won’t be legally allowed to touch the substance that is funding their college tuition. It creates an odd dynamic, perhaps even a perilous contradiction: legislators are required to warn these students under 21 to stay away from marijuana while encouraging sales of the product to fund the program. Instead of being a source of great controversy, however, the Pueblo community, including lawmakers and growers, appear supportive of the program overall. The measure passed handily, with over 60 percent of voters in favor of it. Helping students succeed is the priority, more so than the source of funding.

A Bold Beginning
Marijuana tax revenue created by shopping at Denver area dispensaries has exceeded the cost of regulating the industry to such an extent that the field is wide open for disbursement opportunities. This is only the beginning for the beneficial use of marijuana tax revenues. We’re sure to see other creative and constructive programs implemented that are designed to help community projects. If the past two years are any indication, the weed industry will only continue to grow, providing a revenue stream whose limits remain boundless.

Come by Altitude Dispensary, your go-to dispensary in Denver, where our knowledgeable budtenders can help you find the right medical or recreational product to suit your needs. With three locations to choose from, it’s easy to contribute to an industry that’s finding new ways to give back to the community.
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