CO: Where Does The Marijuana Money Go

Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
The state of Colorado raised $87 million dollars last year through the taxation of recreational marijuana. After a call from a concerned viewer, who was wondering where that money goes and how it is distributed to schools, News Channel Five decided to dive head first into the confusing world of recreational marijuana taxes.

Emily Shockley, the public information officer for School District 51, said she has met many people who have the wrong idea about recreational marijuana taxes. "I'd say the biggest misconception about recreational marijuana tax money is that it either goes straight to the schools, or that you only have a shot at that money if you have recreational sales in your town. That's not true," said Shockley.

Whenever recreational marijuana is sold, both an excise tax and sales tax are collected. $40 million dollars from the excise tax is put into the BEST grant, which stands for Building Excellent Schools Today. This money is reserved for large projects, like construction on a school. District 51 has applied for this grant four different times, and has never gotten one. However, BEST grants are not free of charge. "A smaller town, they maybe have to pay like a 50/50, where as we have to pay 2/3 of the cost, and then the BEST grant would cover 1/3 of the cost. 'Cause we're kind of bigger, so we can spread it out to more taxpayers if we were to pass a bond measure to match a BEST grant," said Shockley.

Applying for the BEST grant can take a few months, and there's no guarantee of a school actually getting it. "Everybody has an equal shot at these grants, in theory. They just have a lot of people in line for them," said Shockley.

The sales tax on recreational marijuana is split between the state, county, and city. "The money that goes to the state - that sometimes ends up back in education because the state sales tax money goes to a bunch of different places. But it's a little under 10% that goes to different things in education, so that's again grants that we have to apply for, and again, anyone can apply for those grants. We actually have a couple of those grants, so that's how we get money from the recreational sales tax," said Shockley.

Even though District 51 has received some of these sales tax grants, they are only applied to unique issues, like school health professionals or dropout prevention. "There's a lot of needs, and there's a lot of needs being met by these grants... but there are certainly some other needs we have out there," said Shockley.

Whether the money is in an excise tax or sales tax, it all comes down to the grant application process. "Kind of rough, because you just kind of have luck of the draw. And you might get something, and you might get nothing," said Shockley.

Taxes from recreational marijuana are not just given to education, but to a variety of departments across the state.

The BEST grant is composed of more than just the excise tax, it also includes state and land trusts, lottery spillover funds, and interest earned.


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