Ballot measure in Colorado gives new meaning to ‘higher’ education

Voters in Pueblo County, Colorado will be asked to vote later this year on a proposal to fund college scholarships through a new excise tax on legal marijuana cultivation.

Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace, who proposed the measure last week, told Campus Reform that the full Board of County Commissioners voted 3-0 Monday to include it on the November 2015 ballot.

Pace said he is “excited” that voters will have a chance to consider the idea, adding, “We’re trying to provide opportunity for everybody to live out the American dream.”

Pueblo County has become something of an epicenter for cannabis cultivation since Colorado legalized the recreational use of marijuana, according to The Cannabist, and Pace wants to capitalize on the burgeoning industry to fund a new scholarship program for local residents who plan to attend a public college or university in Pueblo County.

“We have taxation on retail sales at stores,” he explained, “but no tax on cultivation.”

If approved, the measure would impose a five percent tax, levied when marijuana is transferred from growers to retailers. At least half the annual revenue generated by the tax would be earmarked for the scholarship fund, with the remainder going toward infrastructure improvements and various other projects.

“Every kid deserves an opportunity to succeed,” Pace said in a press release. “Pueblo County has potential new tax revenue from a new marijuana industry that can benefit the kids of Pueblo.”

Prior to Monday’s vote, however, Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, warned the Board of Commissioners against taking cannabis cultivation in Pueblo County as a given, suggesting that new taxes could induce some growers to leave the area.

“Under Amendment 64, we gave local (governments) the permission to make these excise taxes,” Henson told The Denver Post. “I would just caution the county commissioners to look at how this will [affect] sales in Pueblo and the surrounding areas.”

Johnny Green, a self-described marijuana activist from Oregon, likewise pointed out in a post on The Weed Blog that even though the tax would be levied at the wholesale level, it would most likely end up being passed along to Pueblo County cannabis consumers in the form of higher retail prices.

“Would you pay more for marijuana if you knew it was going to fund a college scholarship program in your area?”

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