Marijuana plants grow in full sun in Pueblo County on Sept. 3, 2016. Pueblo County is one of the few places in Colorado that allows for outdoor commercial cannabis cultivation. (Vince Chandler, The Denver Post)

Colorado county using $425K in local pot taxes for college scholarships

A Colorado county is turning marijuana tax revenue into more college scholarships.

Pueblo County’s board of commissioners on Monday morning OK’d a contract that creates a nearly $475,000 scholarship fund for local high school seniors attending college in Pueblo. The lion’s share of that fund — $425,000 — came from excise tax collections from cannabis cultivation, said county spokeswoman Paris Carmichael.

“If we can continue growing this, this could be game-changing for Pueblo,” she said.

Typically 300 to 400 Pueblo high school seniors attend Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University after graduation, Carmichael said. There’s no set scholarship limit per student, so it’s possible that the scholarships could be greater than the estimated $1,000 per student, she said.

The contract approved Monday allows the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation to administer the Pueblo County Scholarship, which is funded with $425,000 from local excise tax revenue on marijuana grown in the county and another $49,664 from the Colorado Opportunity Scholarship Initiative.

Last year, Pueblo County awarded 23 such scholarships totaling $50,000.

To qualify for the “cannabis-funded scholarship,” the student must be a graduating high school senior in 2017, live in Pueblo County and attend either Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University in the fall of 2017.

More information on the applications, which are due April 30, is available at

“It is so critically important to make college affordable for our youth if we want to provide long-term economic opportunity to our community,” County Commissioner Sal Pace said in a statement. “Too many kids can’t afford to go to college. With this program we are taking cannabis-tax revenue and using it to provide for a brighter future in Pueblo.”

The scholarship is unique in that it’s available to every graduating high school senior who decides to continue their education in Pueblo, Pace noted.

Elsewhere in Colorado, Adams County intended to put $500,000 of its marijuana tax revenue toward the Adams County Scholarship Fund, which would provide four-year scholarships to underprivileged students. The county since has been embroiled in a legal fray over its 3 percent tax on recreational marijuana sales, but officials said they would continue to support the scholarships.