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Can taxing pot pay for ‘free’ college?

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

(AP Photo/John Minchillo, File)

The university system has gone to pot, so it would only make sense that marijuana help pay to educate college students?

High school senior Byron Ochoa, a participant in the Las Vegas Sun Youth Forum, penned an op-ed in the paper that states should consider legalizing recreational marijuana, taxing it, and using the revenue to make schools more affordable.

“We can look to Colorado as a model for such initiatives,” Ochoa wrote. “According to the Colorado Department of Revenue, by July, $73 million was raised from taxes, licenses and fees within the marijuana industry for the fiscal year.”

Ochoa said that those funds could be spread around between public universities, community colleges, vocational programs, and trade schools.

A sin tax on grass to pay for education sounds like a good idea on its face, but there are many problems with using a sin tax, like those imposed on gambling, cigarettes, and alcohol, to pay for education.

Tax revenue by the states should be based off of a solid, stable, and adequate tax policy.

Analysts have said that sin taxes fail to meet any of those requirements. The National Institute of Early Education Research reported that taxes on bad ‘sinful’ behavior often garner most of the revenue from the poor and in most cases fail to sustain long-term social programs.

“The beer tax proved to be a good thing in Arkansas in terms of energizing people and bringing attention to the issue, but it still constitutes a very small amount of the total revenue it takes to support our preschool program,” Rich Huddleston, director of Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, said to NIEER.

There’s also a bigger problem that revenue on sin taxes jump from year to year and are not reliable, especially for a growing industry like higher education.

Colorado’s revenue from the pot tax pales in comparison to the states spending on higher education. Marijuana brought in just $73 million, just 3 percent of the state’s $2.365 billion it spends on higher education.

That does include the trade and vocational programs that the $73 million would also be allocated to in Ochoa’s proposal.

So while it seems like a green future would mean more affordable college education, the reality is pot for college is a pipe dream.

Maybe we should expect this as Bernie Sanders’ next big campaign idea.


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