BY: TREVOR HEWITT
Though they can’t legally smoke the stuff, they can still use it as an incentive to get high – grades, that is.
Starting in 2017, a Colorado county will offer residents college scholarships that are funded by the state’s marijuana taxes.
Pueblo County residents approved the program, the first of its kind, earlier this month. The five per cent tax on marijuana is expected to raise $3.5 million US annually by 2020. That money will be available to any high school senior in the county – provided they attend one of its two public colleges.
Though county planners are still hashing out the details, they are projecting that the initiative will offer around 400 scholarships a year – each worth $1,000. The high number comes as no surprise, seeing as Pueblo County is home to the world’s largest outdoor marijuana farm.
Though the initiative has caused quite a stir, it also establishes an odd precedent. Students will be having their bills paid by a product that’s illegal for them to use until they’re 21.
“It’ll be interesting to see how they balance that, telling kids to stay away from these products until they’re [of age] but creating a reliance on the product paying for their schooling,” Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, an organization representing Colorado’s marijuana industry, told the Toronto Star.
The announcement is just one of many aggressive recruitment efforts and financial incentives the southern Colorado county has offered growers fleeing high costs in the Denver area.
Unlike most Colorado counties, Pueblo County allows residents to grow marijuana outdoors. They also made the unprecedented choice to give marijuana growers the same water rights as farmers – something the county can do because its water supply, located in the Arkansas River Basin, is controlled locally, not federally.
Though bold measures, Chris Markuson, Pueblo’s economic development director, told the Toronto Star they are quite calculated. “We are aggressive, trying to build the Silicon Valley of the marijuana industry.”
The two colleges eligible for the scholarships — Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University-Pueblo — have expressed excitement for the new program. CSU-Pueblo President, Lesley Di Mare, told the Toronto Star the school welcomes the industry’s new initiative.
“Of course marijuana’s not allowed on the campus, period,” she added.