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Where does Colorado's Pot money go? This year the answer is Glenwood Springs

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graphic by Alycin Bektesh
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Aspen Public Radio

This year Garfield County benefited more than most from the school funding available through marijuana sales taxes collected throughout the state. 

Taxes collected on local marijuana sales are sent to the state, which then distributes that money in a number of ways. A percentage of the tax revenue goes back to local jurisdictions, but the majority of funds go toward grant programs to help upgrade public school facilities, tobacco cessation programs and addiction recovery programs.   

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A map of the BEST grant funding requests throughout the state. A small percentage of the communities that applied were awarded funds, and about one fifth of the available funds went to Glenwood Elementary School.

 

Since January 2014, Pitkin County has collected almost sixty nine thousand dollars in sales tax revenue from marijuana. Garfield County has collected nearly two hundred seventeen thousand dollars. Combined, those contributions are a small fraction of what the state government collects, yet this year Garfield County saw a huge return on investment when one of its schools was awarded a Building Excellent Schools Today, or BEST grant.

There are four priority levels for receiving such a grant, the highest of which addresses safety and health concerns within schools.

Shannon Pelland, Chief Financial Officer for the Roaring Fork School District, says the BEST grant received by Glenwood Elementary School this year shows the desperate condition the current facility is in.

 

"Nearly 20 percent of what was available in the state was awarded for the Glenwood Springs Elementary School project, which I think just speaks to the significant needs of that school” said Pelland.

Other funding categories include expanding overcrowded facilities and updating technology.

A referendum on this fall’s ballot in the Roaring Fork School District seeks to approve a $122 million dollar bond that would in part, allow the BEST grant to be matched — which is required to get the state money.

Coloradans this fall are voting on Proposition BB, which would allow the state to retain excess taxes, and continue funding the multitude of programs currently benefiting from the statewide retail marijuana tax.

 

Pot tax revenue also helps fund medical marijuana research. 9 million dollars has been awarded to studies throughout the country, but the majority of the funds are going to the University of Colorado Anschutz  Medical Campus. The effect of marijuana on everything from post traumatic stress syndrome and Parkinson's disease to irritable bowel syndrome is supported by Colorado pot consumers.

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