by Katie Kausch
Thanks to a new tax, smoking marijuana could help some Coloradans pay their way through college. This Election Day (Nov. 3), Pueblo County voters decided to raise the tax levied on marijuana growers in order to create a college scholarship fund for high schoolers. This news came on the same day that Ohio voters decided against legalizing both medicinal and recreational marijuana in their state.
Four hundred college-bound students are expected to receive about $1,000 each -- but there's a catch: To be eligible, you have to live in Pueblo County, Colorado, and attend one of the counties two public schools (Colorado State University - Pueblo or Pueblo Community College).
This appears to be the first pot-funded scholarship anywhere in the world, possibly because marijuana remains illegal in most places.
The 5 percent tax increase -- from 15 percent up to 20 percent -- was supported by 60 percent of voters (and the marijuana industry) and will be phased in over the next five years. The scholarship will first be handed out in 2017 and anyone who meets the requirements is automatically eligible. No application necessary.
Pueblo Country is Colorado's largest pot-producing country, with 20 percent of all marijuana being grown there. The tax increase is expected to raise an addition $3.5 million in taxes in the next five years. Any money not used to fund the scholarships will go toward a predetermined list of community projects.
Another benefit of the tax hike? The two colleges could also revive some of that money to put toward medical marijuana research. Federal research on medical marijuana is almost impossibly difficult because marijuana is still a Schedule I drug -- the same level as heroin and LSD. Drugs under this classification are found to "have no currently accepted medical use in the United States, a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision," although marijuana doesn't quite fit that description anymore.
Before you get too excited about this new push leading to pot on campus, these contributions won't change previously standing school rules. A friendly reminder to all students from CSU-Pueblo President Lesley Di Mare: "Of course marijuana's not allowed on the campus, period."