To us youngsters, Project 2000 was awesome. For an entire week, we didn’t have to waste our sacrosanct childhood learning about boring, useless things like reading, writing, history, math, or science. Instead, under this delightful, federally funded program, we got to act out poorly scripted skits, pretend to witness the horrors of addiction, and, in the end, sign a pledge swearing we’d never, ever touch illegal drugs like the dreaded marijuana.
As luck would have it, my teacher picked me to be the character “Simon.” Simon was the clueless kid in our Project 2000 skits who just couldn’t grasp why marijuana was so terrible. My classmates made fun of me during recess. “Simon’s a druggie!” they’d chime. “Simon’s a dumb pothead!”
And look where we are today. Who’s laughing now, Drug-Free Class of 2000?
Ironically, for most students who graduated in 2000, that year was the first time they could vote. And in Colorado, they voted for Amendment 20, the law that created our medical marijuana program.
It’s been a long time since Project 2000 became a distant memory. Although we still have anti-cannabis propaganda in our schools, Colorado does things a little differently. Thanks to Jack’s Law, medical cannabis can be administered to our stu-dents on school grounds. And despite legalization, surveys show our teenagers smoke less pot than teens in other states.
Then there’s all that tax money. Cannabis, demonized for decades, now funds the very schools that brainwashed us to fear marijuana. Since 2014, our schools received tens of millions of dollars spilling in from cannabis tax revenues.
None of this money, however, goes to training or hiring new teachers, or toward much-needed education reform. Rather, this money goes to school construction and repair.
Consider, too, that the total cannabis tax revenue reserved for our schools is only $40 million. And we’ve never actually hit that mark: the highest was in 2015, for a mere $25 mil-lion. And yes, given these numbers, I can totally write “mere.” The annual price tag for our schools is about $6 billion, which means our weed taxes only paid for 0.4 percent of the state’s education budget. Look at that again. That’s not even a full 1 percent.
Although Colorado’s economy is booming right now, our schools aren’t. Education Week’s Quality Counts report gave Colorado a D+ for school financing, making us 38th in the entire nation. A study from Rutgers University gave us an F for funding.
So, no, cannabis isn’t going to save our schools. No more than the Lotto did.
How’d this happen? Back in the 1990s, we voted for this thing called the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. TABOR required all new tax hikes to be approved by a popular vote. The TABOR campaign sold it to us as a way to control where our taxes went, and that we’d save money in the long run.
Surprise: we got duped.
In a purple state like Colorado, which leans more Libertarian than anything else, we don’t like taxes. That includes taxes for necessities like, oh, I don’t know, preparing our kids for the real world. We especially couldn’t be bothered with tax increases after the 2008 financial meltdown, when school funding really started to plummet. Obviously, those of us who voted against the tax increase needed that extra $16 per year for—for what, exactly?
As the new school season rolls in, keep your sights set on November. Our schools desperately need money. They appreciate what they can get from cannabis taxes, but they need more. A lot more. Without this funding, they rely on stupid programs like Project 2000 to make up for shortages. Feel free to spend your cash at a local dispensary, but while you enjoy your elevated state, don’t forget to get to the polls.