Commentary

Op Ed: Five of Colorado’s Most Convincing Pot Tax Spends

Shutterstock.com/Mix Matithipat
As Colorado approaches the five-year mark since recreational cannabis sales started in January 2014, and as our state’s maturing marijuana market continues breaking sales and tax records, now is a good time to reflect on the ways tax revenue from regulated sales of cannabis have made Colorado a better place to live.

We’ve seen a steady upward trajectory in revenue for the state’s coffers: In 2014, Colorado collected nearly $67.6 million in taxes and licensing fees associated with medical and adult-use cannabis. By 2017, that number had more than tripled to upwards of $247 million in government revenue. And 2018 totals are on track to beat last year’s, with revenue for January-September already surpassing $200 million.

All told, between January 2014 and September 2018, the State of Colorado has collected nearly $840 million in revenue from the regulated marijuana market, according to the Department of Revenue — and that doesn’t even count the millions more raised by city- and county-specific taxes.

That’s good news for many people across our state who are benefiting from the services and programs that marijuana revenues are helping to fund.

Here are five particularly notable areas where marijuana tax money is helping Coloradans:

Public Education
A large portion of revenue Colorado collects through the Marijuana Tax Cash Fund and excise taxes are earmarked for public education. Considering Colorado ranked among the bottom 10 in the U.S. for school finance and received a “D+” from the Education Week Research Center in a January 2018 analysis, any revenues that help fund Colorado’s school system are a good thing.

In 2017 alone, more than $100 million in marijuana tax dollars went to public schools, helping to fund construction projects and programs like the School Health Professionals Grant, which supports schools in hiring nurses, psychologists, social workers and counselors to provide critical treatment to students with substance abuse problems and other behavioral health needs. Marijuana revenues also went to early literacy programs, school bullying prevention and dropout prevention, among other initiatives.

Drug Safety, Abuse Prevention and Treatment
Marijuana revenues have also been going toward supporting substance abuse prevention for adults and youths, and treatment programs across the state, as well as Colorado’s Good to Know education campaign. This money is helping to ensure that cannabis consumers — whether they’re residents or among the many tourists visiting annually — can gain a firm understanding of the laws and best-use FAQs for safe, legal and responsible consumption.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.