Marijuana sales tax hike on the Colorado ballot would go toward student programs

State

DENVER (KDVR) — One measure on Colorado’s statewide ballot is drawing a lot of attention from parents and lawmakers alike.

Prop 119 wants to boost the sales tax on weed and spend that money to help kids deal with learning loss through out-of-school programs.

Supporters and opponents agree: COVID-19 dealt kids a big blow when it comes to learning and retaining information.

While supporters want this measure to help them get back on track, people against it say there are other ways for the state to get it done.

Would higher marijuana sales taxes boost the black market?

Norma Anderson left her seat in the state Senate in 2005 but she remains an advocate for kids. She said the measure on this year’s ballot caught her eye for the wrong reasons, one of them being an increase in the marijuana sales tax from 15% to up to 20% by 2024.

“That creates more of a black market. Same thing happened with cigarettes. I, once when the cigarette tax was increased, was told about the black market on cigarettes. The same thing is going to happen with marijuana,” Anderson said.

Supporters of the proposition, like sitting Assistant Senate Majority Leader Rhonda Fields, say it’s worth it if helps Colorado’s youth.

“I can’t think of a better investment on our kids,” Fields said. “So if it takes the opportunity for us to increase taxes on marijuana to make sure every child has a safe start, a head start, a healthy start and getting them on the platform and runway to adulthood, then that’s a good thing.”

Student program would be funded in part by land trust funds

Marijuana taxes would not be the only way the new program would be funded. It would also use some dollars meant for public school lands in the state.

“The marijuana tax and the land trust funds come together to make it possible for us to fund some of the poorest kids in our state to get the supplemental out-of-school instruction,” Fields said.

On the other side of the debate, opponents like Anderson wonder if using those dollars this way are a violation of the state’s constitution.

“It was frustrating to me when I saw they were taking money from the schools on the land trust,” Anderson said. “And it’s very clear in the enabling act that the interest the land board earns goes to public education, the public schools, in fact, is the way it’s worded.”

It is projected the measure would use more than $20 million from the school trust funding.

As for how those dollars would be replaced in that fund, no solutions for that have been offered yet.

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