County in Colorado votes to fund college scholarships with taxes on marijuana

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FILE: Marijuana in a legal grow room at University of Mississippi.

By Masuma Ahuja

NEW YORK (CNN) — Starting in 2017, high school graduates in one Colorado county will be able to turn to a college scholarship funded by marijuana tax.

On Tuesday, 60% of voters in Pueblo County approved a measure that will phase in an increase in taxes — 5% by 2020 — on marijuana growers  to fund college scholarships and other community projects.

The county is expected to raise $3.5 million with this tax increase, and at least half the revenue will go toward funding scholarships for high school graduates in Pueblo to attend local colleges. Depending on revenue, the program might be expanded in future years.

“The whole point of the scholarship program was to make higher education a reality for families who can’t afford to send their kids to school because of debt,” said Paris Carmichael, a spokesperson for Pueblo County.

According to Carmichael, this type of scholarship, funded by a marijuana tax, appears to be the first of its kind.

The challenge for the county will be “how well Pueblo can manage educating minors in staying away from recreational marijuana and encourage the growth and development of that industry [at the same time],” said Tyler Henson, the president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce.

The money not used by the college scholarship program will be dedicated to a long list of community projects that includes enhancing a playground at an elementary school, funding a study about extending an Amtrak route to the county and replacing golf carts at a local golf course.

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