Six years after Colorado first started selling legal marijuana, the sky is still intact and fears of Reefer Madness have largely quieted. Better still, Coloradans are now driving on cleaner highways and attending schools freer from bullying thanks to legal cannabis business profits and the resulting tax revenue.
Cannabis Businesses Help Clean More Highways Than Any Others
Colorado marijuana businesses have sponsored more highways for cleanup than any other industry, according to data from the Adopt A Highway Maintenance Corporation. Together, 51 cannabis companies—including dispensaries, cultivators and others —sponsor 66 percent of roads, or 198 miles, covered by the state’s Clean Colorado program. The next largest business categories are general services and retail.
In the program, companies pay a fee to sponsor a highway, so they can have their name and logo put on a small blue sign placed on the side of the road in high-traffic areas. The fees cover the costs of road cleanup crews, and busier roads with more litter are more expensive to sponsor.
“It presents marijuana stores in a positive light,” Harsha Gangadharbatla, an advertising professor, told The Denver Post, which first reported the cannabis business boost for clean roads. “The money made from marijuana is put to something good, like keeping up roads and transportation that everyone uses.”
Sponsoring highways can be an especially attractive option for cannabis businesses because, until recently, the state has banned them from advertising on billboards. A new bill passed last year that took effect in January now allows cannabis companies to advertise on billboards, albeit under strict regulations.
Marijuana Taxes Are Helping To Fight Bullying In Schools
Meanwhile, the tax money that cannabis businesses generate for the state is being put towards another purpose: keeping children safe. State education officials have used marijuana taxes to give $6 million to 71 schools since 2016 to fund anti-bullying education. These Bullying Education Prevention Grants have helped teachers and staff train more than 34,400 students.
“[In sixth grade], I just felt like I just didn’t know what to do because no one had ever taught me,” Solana Diaz, an eighth grade student from Denver, told FOX 31 KDVR, which first reported the cannabis funding for anti-bullying.
Diaz said she’s heard about fights on campus almost every week in prior years, but that she’s only seen five so far this year. “We never talked about it. But now that we have a new staff and everything, I feel like I could go and tell somebody. It’s a lot easier to tell,” she said.
Her school received more than $93,000 over three years. Among many techniques students and staff practice, the school rewards students who reduce bullying by “knighting” them with a sword in a special ceremony.
A statewide survey reveals that students who participated in these programs reported a 33 percent decrease in experiencing bullying and a 17 percent decrease in witnessing bullying since the grants first began.
Colorado prioritizes public schools when giving out cannabis tax money. The first $40 million of cannabis excise taxes each year goes towards public school construction. Additional funds go to local governments, affordable housing and substance abuse programs.
While cannabis taxes in Colorado have helped finance programs to boost public safety, new legislation may be even more impactful in addressing other safety issues. Effective as of January, new regulations signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis (D) allow medical cannabis businesses to deliver to patients’ homes. Starting in January 2021, recreational businesses will also be able to deliver to adult-use consumers.
“We’re moving away from the risk of people driving while impaired by having legal delivery to people’s homes,” Polis told other governors from states around the country at a conference last year. “In our state, it’s a constitutional right [for people] to use marijuana in their home—without the risk of them using it somewhere else and driving.”
Earlier this month, Polis unveiled a new plan aimed at increasing the number of banks and credit unions working with cannabis businesses. Increasing legal financing options can allow businesses to move away from operating on a cash-only basis, which makes them vulnerable for theft.