DENVER — Less than two hours after the polls closed, the backers of Proposition 119 conceded.
The proposition would have created the Learning Enrichment and Academic Progress program as well as a board of directors to oversee the program. To pay for it, the recreational marijuana sales tax would have incrementally increased by 5% by the year 2024 on top of the current 15% sales tax rate.
In a press release from Yes on Prop 119, Curtis Hubbard, a spokesperson for the group, said they would not give up on pursuing policy solutions that would help Colorado school children who suffered learning loss during the pandemic.
“The significant gap in achievement between students from wealthy families and their low-income peers has been an unfortunate educational outcome in Colorado for years — and tonight’s results mean it will likely continue to get worse before it gets better,” said Curtis Hubbard, Yes on Prop 119 spokesperson. “Access to affordable, quality after-school education services is not a possibility for many families living in Colorado — and we will work with anyone who has a better idea on how to tackle the problem.”
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The money would have gone to things like after-school tutoring, second language training, sports, career or technical training, music lessons and mental health services among other things for kids ages 5-17.
Proponents like Yes to Prop 119 say the measure would have helped students catch up after the COVID-19 pandemic widened the opportunity gap.
Terrapin, a Boulder-based cannabis company that opposed the proposition, said it was a misguided policy.
“Despite being significantly outspent by proponents, Colorado voters still soundly rejected using cannabis as a piggy bank for out-of-state special interest projects. Coloradans understand that lawmakers struck an appropriate balance when they planned for cannabis taxes. Disrupting that system would only set successful regulation back. We can’t balance the state budget and education on the backs of cannabis consumers; we need long-term solutions that address structural deficiencies,” said Peter Marcus, spokesman for Terrapin.
Various marijuana organizations came out against Proposition 119 saying it would disproportionately affect low-income users and drive them to the black market.
“Tonight, Colorado voters made clear that they are not willing to raise taxes at the expense of cannabis patients and consumers for special interests that don’t benefit the majority of Coloradans,” said Truman Bradley, Executive Director of the Marijuana Industry Group. “The cannabis community truly values our ability to support causes Colorado cares about like public safety, mental health, substance abuse, youth prevention education, and affordable housing. In fact, we have given more than $425 Million to these and to other state and local government programs to date. We are, however, grateful that taxpayers will not be footing the bill for new projects that provide no accountability or transparency to voters. We think voters made the right choice, and tonight they said enough is enough.”
Even some education groups did not support the bill because of concerns that school districts would have no say over what programs would be funded and that the taxpayer money would go to private groups.