Decriminalizing marijuana has been a boon to Colorado’s economy. Cannabis earned the state nearly $70 million in taxes in 2015, nearly double the $42 million collected from alcohol taxes. Legalization has also created thousands of jobs for residents. Now some of that tax money is going to a great cause: education.
This is the first year that taxes from sales of marijuana in Pueblo County will go toward college scholarships for seniors preparing to walk down the aisle in cap and gown to receive their diploma.
The county will offer 25 $1,000 scholarships to students who meet the following criteria:
- Applicants must live in Pueblo County and will be attending an institution within the county (Pueblo Community College or Colorado State University – Pueblo)
- Applicants must be a graduating high school senior
- Applicants must have an Expected Family Contribution of $13,085 or less (need that is 250 percent or less of Pell eligibility)
- Applicants must have a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA and a minimum of 12 credit hours
- Scholarship recipients must perform 40 hours of community service to a non-profit agency 
In 2015, voters passed an initiative creating an excise tax on marijuana exported out of the county. Half of the proceeds are allocated to the Pueblo County Scholarship Fund, while the other half goes into a fund for capital community development projects.
“College debt has surpassed even credit card debt in America. Middle-class families find it hard to send their kids to college, a basic cornerstone of the American Dream. We’re aiming to help alleviate that problem.”
Said Beverly Duran, executive director of the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation:
“We are hoping that it will turn into a multi-year award for these students if they meet all of our criteria and continue to keep their GPA up.” 
The scholarship is the first of its kind in the nation. The program was started a year earlier than originally planned, thanks to a partnership between the Pueblo Hispanic Education Foundation and county commissioners.
Duran said these funds are just the beginning, and they’re expecting the program to continue expand over the next few years. She said:
“We’re looking at approximately $700,000 next year. We’re also applying for a grant so if that comes into play I think we’re going to have some really good funds. Maybe a little over a million dollars in years to come.” 
 ABC 7 Denver
 Fox 21 News
Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.