Lots of us credit marijuana with helping us navigate our college years; however, 25 college kids in southern Colorado's Pueblo County will literally have cannabis to thank when it comes to their higher education.
America's first scholarships funded by taxes on legal marijuana are being rolled out later this month. Each student who qualifies for the scholarships, which are being overseen by the Pueblo Hispanic Education Program, will get $1,000, according to USA Today. PHEF's mandate is to remove financial barriers preventing students from securing an education and gaining employment. Over eighty percent of the money the organization raises goes directly to assisting students from a range of backgrounds.
The idea of cannabis tax revenue as a driver of positive social change isn't new: Elsewhere in Colorado, approximately $35 million in tax dollars from legal cannabis has been used to fund schools, assist people who are homeless, give raises to city workers, and fund initiatives to curb underage consumption.
Along the same lines, the city of Aurora, Colorado, has committed $220,000 over the next two years to fund Colfax Community Network, a nonprofit that assists families living in unstable, temporary accommodations. According to the Aurora Sentinel, "the decision was part of a longer discussion surrounding what to do with $4.5 million over the next two years to address homelessness in Colorado's third-largest city."
Total sales of cannabis the state of Colorado are anticipated to reach $1 billion in 2016 - and with those sales comes broader questions about which social programs stand to most benefit from the resultant tax revenue.
Next year, PHEF expects to generate as much as $700,000 for the scholarships; thanks to the state's commitment to matching dollars, that fund could reach almost $1 million over the next 18 months.
"A couple years ago, these are dollars that would have been going to the black market, drug cartels...now money that's used to fund drug cartels is now being used to fund college scholarships," County Commissioner Sal Pace tells local news station KKTV.
The recipients of this year's Pueblo Hispanic Education Program scholarships will be announced later this month.