Pot taxes to fund school construction and substance-abuse programs
Colorado voters agreed on how to spend $66 million of the revenue generated by the legal sale of marijuana.
The measure sends the first $40 million to school construction and $12 million designated for youth and substance-abuse programs. The remaining $14.1 million goes to discretionary accounts controlled by lawmakers. The ballot question was the third time in four years that voters considered how to spend pot taxes, after approving Amendment 64 in 2012 to legalize marijuana and Proposition AA in 2013 to levy sales and excises taxes. In both prior ballot questions, voters sanctioned sending $40 million toward school construction.
The vote was important because otherwise, those revenues would have been redistributed to citizens at about $12 to $16 per person—not as meaningful as spending it on education and drug prevention.
Tuesday’s vote became necessary after fiscal analysts underestimated how much revenue the state would collect without the new tax in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015. The projection is required in the tax’s first year by the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, and the mistake mandated a refund unless lawmakers won voter approval to spend it.
The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) examined state statistics and found Colorado saved millions of dollars because it was no longer locking up as many people for marijuana violations. Police arrested only 1,464 people for marijuana-related offenses, compared to 9,011 in 2010 before legalization, according to the study. “Given that arrests such as these cost roughly $300 to adjudicate, it is reasonable to infer that the state is saving millions in adjudicatory costs” for marijuana-related arrests and prosecutions, the study said.
Considering that, as with most eschatologists, the doom-and-gloom predictions have failed to materialize, legalization is a resounding success. One can argue that a potential spike in blacklight poster sales is a foreseeable problem but besides that (and maybe a few more conversations about how dolphins and the Tao are connected), this is mostly great news. Now, maybe Colorado can find its way to paying its teachers more with the money it is making on pot.