Marijuana Tax Revenue Funds Over $2M in Scholarships for Colorado Students

One county in Colorado will award over $2 million in scholarships thanks to marijuana tax revenue.

Pueblo County announced the scholarships ahead of the upcoming fall semester, according to The Pueblo Chieftain.

It will award $1 million to Pueblo Community College, $616,000 to the Colorado State University Pueblo Foundation, $385,000 to CSU Pueblo Athletics for student-athletes and $26,000 to the Pueblo African American Concern Organization.

Garrison Ortiz, chairman of the Board of County Commissioners, told the newspaper he thinks the competitive process "draws out some innovation and creativity when it comes to how these dollars are awarded."

Colorado was the first state in the country to legalize marijuana in 2012. Since then, 18 states and the District of Columbia have legalized the drug for recreational use. So far this year, four states—Connecticut, New Mexico, New York and Virginia—passed legislation decriminalizing the drug for adult use.

Medical marijuana use is also legal in 37 states. There are roughly a dozen states that don't allow marijuana to be consumed in any form.

Colorado reported $2.1 billion in marijuana sales last year, its highest amount ever. So far this year, the state has seen $962 million in marijuana sales. The state has recorded $10 billion in marijuana sales since legalizing the drug nearly a decade ago.

Marijuana dispensaries collect 2.9 percent in state sales tax. The state can also impose a 15 percent dedicated cannabis retail sales tax and a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale sales or transfers of retail marijuana.

Medical marijuana is exempt from the 15 percent sales tax and 15 percent excise tax.

Marijuana Tax Funds Over $2M in Scholarships
One county in Colorado will award over $2 million in scholarships thanks to marijuana tax revenue. Above, a member of the International Church of Cannabis holds up a jar filled with marijuana during the church's 4/20 celebration on April 20, 2018, in Denver, Colorado. Jason Connolly/AFP via Getty Images

Most of the revenue, 71 percent, goes into the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund. The fund required to be spent the year after it is collected and used for health care, health education, substance abuse prevention and treatment programs and law enforcement.

Roughly 15 percent of the marijuana revenue goes to a General Fund and 12.5 percent to the State Public School Fund.

Marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, but congressional Democrats have introduced several bills this year to decriminalize it.

Last month, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unveiled his highly anticipated bill. The legislation would remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act, where it currently shares the same classification (Schedule 1) but still allows states to maintain prohibition.

"It's not just an idea whose time has come. It's long overdue," Schumer said of legalization.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas recently criticized the federal government's "contradictory" marijuana laws, saying the ban might no longer be necessary.

Newsweek reached out to the Pueblo County Board of Commissioners for additional comment but didn't receive a response before publication.