By Stell Simonton, Chalkbeat
Denver’s after-school programs have been a major beneficiary of the city’s special retail marijuana sales tax. As efforts to legalize marijuana spread, after-school leaders in dozens of cities are taking this lesson home.
Last year Denver collected about $46 million in marijuana tax, said Denver Mayor Michael B. Hancock. The Denver Afterschool Alliance now receives $1.5 million yearly for after-school and summer learning programs and has expanded programs in under-resourced neighborhoods and provided more training for the program staff.
“Denver became the first city in the U.S. to implement recreational marijuana,” Hancock told a gathering in Denver earlier this month organized by Every Hour Counts, a national coalition devoted to building citywide after-school systems and expanding learning opportunities to all youth. “If people are going to buy marijuana, then we’re going to make sure it supports our young people.”
In 2012 Colorado approved the recreational use of marijuana for adults, with a tax earmarking some funds for education. Denver also levied a special tax on marijuana sales — now 5.5% — so that the total marijuana tax rate in the city is about 25%.
The ability to make a strong case for the benefits of out-of-school time programs was critical in gaining a share of the city’s special sales tax, said Maxine Quintana, director of out-of-school time Initiatives for Denver’s Office of Children’s Affairs and co-founder of the Denver Afterschool Alliance, a network of after-school providers.