The Colorado legislature adopted a relatively cautious spending plan for cannabis tax revenue, waiting a year to spend it after collection to make sure they know how much they’re spending. Governor John Hickenlooper’s plan, by contrast, would have spent the revenue as it came in.
Of that revenue, $2.5 million was set aside to fund healthcare workers for Colorado school systems, which are woefully understaffed — there are three times more students per counselor than recommended by the American School Counselor Association. Psychologists, social workers, and counselors all have important roles in a school system, but budget cuts have led to positions of this type — usually considered lower priority than instructors and administrative staff — to be cut.
During the first round of grant applications, the state was unable to spend the entire $2.5 million allotted, despite filling 11 out of the 12 grants submitted. As reported by the Denver Post, some school officials told the state there wasn’t enough time to submit an application, so a second round of grant applications was opened:
Officials from some school districts told the state that the turnaround period to submit the grant application was too short.
The Colorado Department of Education, which is overseeing the grants, received an additional 16 applications in the second round.
“We’re confident we will get very close to using the funds,” said Lynn Jenkins-Nygren, a school nurse and the department’s coordinator for the School Health Professional grant. “The second round has a lot of larger districts.”
She went on to say that what schools do with the money will be tracked, and the department will ask the legislature to fund the same grants next year.
Although certain schools have already benefited from cannabis revenue somewhat, this marks one of the first concrete benefits of cannabis reform in Colorado. It’s even a two sided benefit — many schools are choosing to concentrate on the problem of youth substance abuse, using the money from taxed cannabis to help kids dealing with substance abuse issues. People are going to smoke anyway, so it’s a win-win.
Using marijuana revenue to combat what many see as the cons of legalization is a common move. For Oregon’s Measure 91, the revenue usage will break down the following way:
40%: The state’s Common School Fund
20%: Mental health, alcoholism and drug treatment services
15%: Oregon State Police
10%: City and county law enforcement agencies, earmarked to help with enforcement
5%: Oregon Health Authority
It’s also estimated that Oregon state will earn $17 million to $26 million in tax revenue, although it will cost around $10-11 million (first year cost) to put regulatory agencies in place. Depending on how Washington, Colorado, Oregon, and Alaska handle legalized recreational weed, it’s possible it could be on several more ballots in 2016.