Colorado

Apr 23, 2014 12:14 AM by Bethany Rhodes

Plan would direct pot taxes toward drug education

DENVER (AP) - Colorado would save most of its marijuana tax money while spending about $23 million on school nurses and drug treatment and outreach under a plan approved Tuesday be legislative budget writers.

The proposal calls for spending only the marijuana tax dollars the state has in hand instead of budgeting based on projected collections, as most budgets are done.

The delay was prompted by concerns that the new recreational pot industry could produce highly volatile tax collections for the first few years.

Some Colorado recreational pot taxes, including a 15 percent excise tax, have already been earmarked to fund school construction. The remaining sales taxes and fees remain to be allocated by lawmakers.

The spending plan approved Tuesday by the Joint Budget Committee includes about $23 million already in hand. The largest awards would go to programs for youth drug prevention and drug abuse treatment. There's also $5.8 million for a statewide marijuana education campaign.

"I think we've got the bases covered," said Sen. Pat Steadman, D-Denver.

The spending plan also includes:

- $1.2 million to train more police officers to spot drug-impaired drivers.

- $1.5 million to treat pregnant women and adolescents with drug problems.

- $2 million to expand drug treatment to inmates in county jails.

- $3 million to add school nurses to more public schools.

- $4 million to two outreach programs aimed at at-risk youth.

- $904,000 to survey Colorado youths about use of marijuana and other drugs.

The $5.8 million public advertising campaign was amended to include education about edible marijuana products.

The two recent deaths have stoked concerns about Colorado's recreational marijuana industry and the effects of the drug, especially since cookies, candy and other pot edibles can be exponentially more potent than a joint.

"We've seen questions around the safety of edibles," said Rep. Crisanta Duran, D-Denver.

The proposal spending plan passed with a 6-0 vote and will be sent to the full Legislature, where members are jockeying to use the pot money to fund other priorities. Some want to see more money used for law enforcement; others have mentioned using pot taxes to research commercial applications for industrial hemp.

The budget-writers predicted a messy fight before Colorado pot tax proposal is final.

"We're going to be picked apart once this thing becomes public," predicted Rep. Cheri Gerou, R-Evergreen.

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