Marijuana Tax Surplus To Pay For Anti-Bullying Program

| by Zach Cohen
An attendee in a pot-leaf hat at Denver's annual 4/20 festivalAn attendee in a pot-leaf hat at Denver's annual 4/20 festival

The Colorado Department of Education is offering grants of up to $40,000 per school, per year to pay for bullying prevention programs. 

While the grant, created in 2011, is not new, funds were not available to pay for it until November 2015, when voters approved Proposition BB, allowing the state to keep excess marijuana tax dollars, according KMGH-TV. 

Dr. Adam Collins, bullying prevention and education grant coordinator for CDE says, "As far as we know, we're the only state that is providing such significant funds to prevent bullying in schools ... We are excited to have these funds.”

Collins says the grants will pay for evidence-based programs with a proven track record. "It's more than just teachers doing lessons," he notes. Schools will receive specialized training from an anti-bullying specialist, and will form a bully prevention committee of teachers, staff and parents.

According to Deborah Goeken, vice president of the Colorado Health Institute, "The problem of bullying is pervasive." Writing on the institute's website, Goeken reports that, according to the 2015 "Healthy Kids Colorado Survey," a statewide average of 15.1 percent of students reported being bullied at school.

But different demographics report much higher levels of bullying. Among high school students, more than 36 percent of gay, lesbian or bisexual students said they were bullied and 23.9 percent of girls reported being bullied. Race was also a factor, with 33.7 percent of Asian students saying they were bullied. Goeken calls these figures "heartbreaking."

"It’s about changing the culture of the school so that it’s a warm environment. So it’s somewhere that bullying can’t thrive," said Collins.

The anti-bullying grants aren't the first initiative funded by taxes on the sale of recreational marijuana designed to benefit Colorado's young people. Proposition BB, also stipulated that $40 million of the newly available marijuana tax revenue would go toward school construction, and $12 million toward youth and substance abuse programs. 

Proposition BB was necessary because financial analysts underestimated Colorado's projected tax revenue for fiscal year 2015. Provisions in the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights mandate a projection during the tax's first year.

Because of the error, the state was required to refund the excess revenue unless voters approved legislators to spend it. The refund would have been between $6 and $16 per taxpayer, plus $41 million in tax breaks to marijuana growers and recreational users, reports The Denver Post. The ballot measure, which is the third in a series of similar measures to pass, received 69 percent support at the ballot box.

Sources: KMGH-TV, The Denver Post, Colorado Health Institute / Photo credit: The Denver Post

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