DENVER ― Budding scholars, rejoice.
Commissioners in Pueblo County, Colorado, on Monday signed off on what they’re calling the “world’s first cannabis-funded scholarship.”
The fund of approximately $475,000 will be available for high school students in Pueblo County who wish to attend Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University-Pueblo in fall 2017.
Of that funding, about $425,000 comes from cannabis excise tax revenue, which is a one-time county-level tax on all marijuana grown in Pueblo County. A state government-run scholarship program makes up the remaining $49,664.
Every qualifying high school graduate in the county should expect about $1,000 in aid this year, with more being awarded based on merit and need. PCC in-state tuition is slightly more than $3,000 per year, while CSU-Pueblo can cost up to around $6,000 per year depending on the number of credit hours taken.
County commissioner Sal Pace told local news outlet KKTV he’s thrilled to see the money applied to something that can benefit the community.
“A couple 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,” he said.
Pueblo County’s excise tax applies a 2 percent tax on marijuana that growers sell to retailers. That tax is slated to increase by 1 percent each year, maxing out at 5 percent, with at least half earmarked for the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund.
The scholarship fund is expected to grow in the next several years, as both marijuana cultivation and the taxation rate increase.
“It will grow annually because the excise tax increases annually,” Pace told 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.”
A Pueblo County spokeswoman said in a statement to HuffPost that finding new ways to help students pay for college is important to her community.
“It is so critically important to make college affordable for our youth if we want to provide long-term economic opportunity to our community,” she said. “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.”
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