Marijuana Tax: How Colorado is spending its cannabis tax revenue

Colorado is a shining example of how to embrace the times and channel 'tainted' tax dollars into progressive plans.

Five years ago, in November 2012, the American state of Colorado made headlines worldwide for legalizing recreational marijuana through Constitutional Amendment 64 (State Constitution). Colorado had already legalized medical marijuana 12 years before that in 2000 through¬†Constitutional Amendment 20. Despite initial (and still-existing) fears and strong opposition, the legalization of marijuana has created another massive source of tax revenue for the state, securing over $100 million annually. So how does Colorado spend all this “drug money”?

Schools & Education For All

According to the Colorado Marijuana Tax Cash Funds Appropriations & Expenditure report published by the Office of State Planning & Budgeting, the first $40 million collected each year from the marijuana excise tax goes into the Building Excellent Schools Today fund (BEST). The BEST program helps public schools with a variety of capital construction needs. It funds everything from new roofs and appliances to major renovations and new schools. The program aims to provide 21st century facilities to schools and help address health and safety concerns throughout the state. It is a competitive grant program available to all public school districts, charter schools, institute charter schools, boards of cooperative educational services and the Colorado School for the Deaf and Blind (CSDB). The Department of Education received $8.4 million for a variety of initiatives, including $900,000 each for the School Bullying Prevention and Education Cash Fund and Office of Dropout Prevention and Student Reengagement. More than half the money ($4.3 million) went to the Early Literacy Competitive Grant Program. The Department has also set aside $9.7 million to add 150 health professionals at high schools state-wide. Apart from this, CBS News also reports that all graduating high school students in Pueblo County will qualify for a scholarship funded by the marijuana tax revenue. This scholarship can be used at local colleges.

Public Health & Safety

Over $18 million went to the Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) to fund a multitude of programs, including $7 million to the Marijuana Education Campaign, a state-run program that aims to “further the conversation between young Coloradans, and the adults they trust, about the laws and about how using marijuana today could have implications that follow those youth into their futures.” Another $6.7 million were allocated for substance abuse prevention grants, and the state’s Department of Human Services received $7.1 million to end “the use of jails for holding people who are experiencing a mental health crisis.”

Agriculture & Attorney General’s Office

$3 million went to the Department of Agriculture (DoA) for inspection services, pesticide control, 4H and FFA programs and other services. The Attorney General’s office received more than $1 million, of which $286,766 went into a special prosecutions unit.

Helping The Homeless

For the fiscal year 2017-18, Colorado will spend $15.3 million of cannabis tax revenue for securing “permanent supportive housing” and housing assistance for the homeless or those who were considered “at-risk” of losing their homes, according to the budget bill signed by Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper in May, 2017. In another report from the Aurora Sentinal, the city of Aurora – Colorado’s third largest – has also announced plans to spend $1.5 million of marijuana sales tax revenue to support homeless people as part of a $4.5 overall million budget spanning 2 years.

Marijuana In India

Colossal funding for schools and education, anti-bullying programs, affordable housing, homeless rehabilitation, agricultural grants, mental health support, public health & safety – Colorado is a shining example of how to embrace the times and channel ‘tainted’ tax dollars into progressive plans. India’s tryst with marijuana legalization, on the other hand, has been woefully unsatisfactory and under-supported. While prominent voices like Union Cabinet Minister Maneka Gandhi have called for the legalization of medical marijuana, and business tycoons like Ratan Tata and Google India MD Rajan Anandan have funded research into the benefits of medical cannabis, there appears to be no substantial movement towards legalization or even decriminalization. The closest Indian legislators have come to even discussing the issue openly is a Private Bill that was to be tabled in the winter session of Parliament in December, 2017. The draft bill was submitted by Patiala MP Dharamvir Gandhi, but ultimately was never tabled, and now lurks in limbo till the next session.


Ankur Borwankar is an author, lawyer, motivational speaker & entrepreneur. He is the Founder & Editor-in-Chief of Indus Dictum.

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Editor’s note: This article would not have been possible without the illuminating rant of reddit user and legalization activist “relevantlife”.

This article first appeared on Indus Dictum.

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