Marijuana funded scholarships expected to triple in Pueblo - KOAA.com | Continuous News | Colorado Springs and Pueblo

Marijuana funded scholarships expected to triple in Pueblo

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Taxes collected from Pueblo County's marijuana growers will send a record number of students to college next year The scholarship program is the brainchild of Pueblo County Commissioner Sal Pace who said he wanted to create a subsidized scholarship program ever since his days the state legislature more than six years ago.

"If we wanted to turn around the economy, I felt that we had to provide an opportunity for education to everybody," Pace said.

Marijuana legalization in 2012 and the passage of a local marijuana excise tax for commercial growers in 2015 created the revenue stream to make that scholarship dream a reality.

The Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation administers the scholarships which are funded by 50 percent of the revenue collected under the excise tax levied on commercial cannabis growers.

During its inaugural year in 2016, the Foundation awarded 23 scholarships. Some 210 students receive $2,000 awards last year for a total payout of $420,000. 

Pace said this year's tax collections are on track to top $750,000, enough money to triple the number of awards.

"The cannabis cultivation industry continues to grow in Pueblo and the excise tax amount has increased incrementally by one percent each year," Pace explained.  "So, were up to three percent this year."

Historically, between 300 and 400 incoming freshmen students enrolling at Pueblo Community College and Colorado State University Pueblo have come from Pueblo high schools. Pace said the extra revenue this cycle will enable the County and the PHEF to increase awards based on merit and need.

"What if you're a returning, non-traditional student or you want to attend a great institute outside of Pueblo that doesn't have this same degree that you hope to receive, then you might be able to qualify for one of these merit or need scholarships."

The County also plans to establish a first ever Pueblo Scholar Award for a high-performing student who would likely earn a higher amount.

The scholarship application window closed March first. The total number of scholarships awarded this summer and their final amount will be determined by the availability of funding as well as the financial need of the students who are applying.

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