Construction workers install insulation onto the roof of a greenhouse that will be used for growing marijuana in Avondale in Pueblo County on July 22, 2015. (Callaghan O'Hare, The Denver Post)

Funding college scholarships via pot grows proposed in southern Colorado

Pueblo County commissioner Sal Pace says he hopes the measure that would institute a 5 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana transfers will "give Pueblo kids a boost"

A Pueblo County commissioner is proposing a ballot measure for a program to fund college scholarships through a marijuana excise tax.

Commissioner Sal Pace says he hopes the new measure will “give Pueblo kids a boost” and help fight college debt. The county commission is set to vote at their Monday meeting on whether or not the proposal will be placed on November election ballots.

“The excise tax would be levied when marijuana is transferred from cultivation to a store,” Pace’s office said in a news release Wednesday. “Pueblo County’s perfect economic and weather conditions have created a boom of recreational cultivations without yet generating a tax on these grows.”

Beginning in 2017, graduating seniors from all high schools in Pueblo who attend a public college or university in Pueblo County will be eligible for scholarships from the proposed program, the release said.

“Every kid deserves an opportunity to succeed,” Pace said in a statement. “Pueblo County has potential new tax revenue from a new marijuana industry that can benefit the kids of Pueblo.”

The ballot measure would propose a 5 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana grows from Pueblo County. It asks that on an annual basis, no less than 50 percent of the tax’s revenue be designated for scholarships.

The rest of the revenue would be used on community projects, like the Colorado State Fair’s streetscape refurbishment, medical marijuana academic research and a feasibility study on the potential connection of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief to Pueblo.

Pueblo County commissioner Sal Pace (David Zalubowski, Special To The Denver Post)
Pueblo County commissioner Sal Pace (David Zalubowski, Special To The Denver Post)

“The program may be expanded in future years depending how on revenue,” the release said.

Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, said he hopes the county commission will fully examine the measure before sending it to the ballot.

“Under Amendment 64, we gave local (governments) the permission to make these excise taxes,” he said. “I would just caution the county commissioners to look at how this will effect sales in Pueblo and the surrounding areas.”

Jesse Paul: 303-954-1733, jpaul@denverpost.com or twitter.com/JesseAPaul

This story was first published on DenverPost.com