Colorado is using nearly $10 million of the tax revenue it’s generated from marijuana sales to pay for school health programs.
Colorado schools have received $9.2 million in funding for new school health programs designed to prevent underage cannabis use. The money comes from the more than $500 million in marijuana tax revenue Colorado has generated since its adult use market launched in 2014.
The Colorado Department of Education has parceled out the $9.2 million grant to 42 school districts and charter schools. To more effective discourage underage cannabis use, the money has been sent to districts and schools in close proximity to legal marijuana retail shops.
Teen marijuana use has fallen sharply in Colorado since the opening of the state’s recreational marijuana market, but the new funding will further bolster effort to prevent underage use by increasing the number of health care officials and counselors inside and outside classrooms. Being around the students on a regular basis will allow the professionals to administer early, comprehensive intervention.
“We and other school health professionals are in a unique position in our schools in that we see these kids every day and we can educate, assess and assist them with substance abuse or behavioral health issues,” Rhonda Valdez, a school nurse at Colorado’s Wheat Ridge High School, recently told the Denver Post. “We can help keep kids from walking through that door that can lead to bad things.”
How marijuana tax revenue is allocated is determined by the state legislature. From the beginning of its adult use program, Colorado has put a majority of its tax revenue into education and school construction efforts. Of the more than $500 million in tax revenue it’s collected from the cannabis industry so far, $117.9 million has been used to fund school construction and an additional $5.7 million had been placed into a separate public school fund. Colorado’s cannabis revenue has also paid for college scholarships in Pueblo County.
Colorado was the first of what are now eight states with laws permitting adult use cannabis. While cannabis opponents regularly voice concerns over the potential impact of legalization on teens, evidence so far indicates that loosening of laws does not encourage underage use. In Washington, teen use has remained stable or decreased since its recreational market was implemented. Nationwide, marijuana use among adolescents has fallen to a 22-year low, despite 28 states passing medical or adult use marijuana laws during that time.
“After all, it’s still illegal for high school students to use marijuana,” Mike Van Dyke of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, told the Denver Post. “You still can’t go to a retail shop and buy marijuana if you are under 21. You have to get it through illegal means.”
“So that,” he added, “could keep marijuana use level for those under 21.”
While teen cannabis use remains stable, Colorado’s adult use market has grown since its implementation. Dispensaries sold roughly $699.2 million worth of recreational and medical marijuana during the first year of adult use operation, about $996.2 million in the program’s second year, and $1.3 billion in sales last year. Monthly sales now regularly top $100 million, and the state is on track to hit $1.5 billion in sales this year.