Pot taxes bring money to Colorado; Gov. Hickenlooper proposes spending plan for safety, education

DENVER - Money coming in from the sale of recreational pot is proposed for spending on Colorado's public schools, substance abuse treatment plans and health and safety.

Gov. John Hickenlooper announced his proposed spending plan Wednesday, 50 days after the first bud of non-medical marijuana was sold on Jan. 1. The plan calls for more than $100 million to be spent over the next year and a half on youth marijuana use prevention, substance abuse treatment, public health, regulatory oversight and law enforcement.

$4.5 million would be allocated during this fiscal year and $99 million would be allocated next year, under the governor's plan.

"We view our top priority as creating an environment where negative impacts on children from marijuana legalization are avoided completely," Hickenlooper wrote in a proposal letter to the state joint budget committee. "Underage use of marijuana can have long-lasting effects on individuals and communities.”

Proposition AA, which was approved by 65 percent of voters in Nov. 2013, instituted a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale weed and a 10 percent sales tax on retail sales.

$40 million in marijuana tax revenue from the excise tax was already earmarked for school construction, as approved by voters. The money will benefit the Building Excellent Schools Today grant program, called "BEST."

Under Hickenlooper's plan, revenue from the sales tax will help public schools pay for health professionals to advise and educate students on marijuana use. The Department of Public Health and Environment plans to create a state-wide campaign to get the word out about how marijuana use can affect health and lifestyle.

Nearly $2 million was requested by the Department of Transportation to help pay for the new "Drive High, Get a DUI" campaign, which targets young men who are likely to combine marijuana and alcohol.

The plan also calls for almost $26 million in expected matching federal funds to support substance abuse treatment and youth deterrence programs.

All spending of marijuana tax revenue will need to be finalized with the state budget for the fiscal year 2014-2015.

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