Skip to main content

The false promise of marijuana money in education

When Colorado legalized recreational marijuana sales in 2012, advocates predicted $40 million in new revenue for schools each year. Has that worked out?

No, say School of Education doctoral student Brooke Midkiff and associate professor Eric Houck. Midkiff and Houck presented their analysis in a presentation at the American Educational Research Association conference in April. Their research was picked up by The Atlantic magazine and EdWeek.

Midkiff and Houck say that high taxes on recreational pot sales have blunted tax revenues.

A year after the legalization of marijuana sales, voters passed a proposition to dramatically increase taxes on the sales. That move, and the fact that municipalities may add their own taxes on pot sales, pushed many buyers into the medical marijuana or black markets, Midkiff and Houck said.

As a result, in 2014 sales of recreational marijuana generated just $13.3 million for school construction. That amount measures up to $14.96 per pupil, or about 8 percent of average per pupil revenue for school construction in Colorado. Midkiff and Houck projected recreational marijuana tax revenue will reach $20.4 million this year.

The Atlantic sums up the situation like this:

“The preliminary research, out of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, offers the latest case study within a wider body of research on the exploitation of education “as a topic to sell voters on policy proposals that condone previously illegal behavior,” the analysts write. As past studies reveal, using education to justify the legalization of formerly condemned activities often serves as a selling point in name only.”

The Atlantic article is here

The EdWeek article is available here.