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Denver Public Schools uses video to bust marijuana myth about tax money

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DENVER -- Denver Public Schools will consider whether to ask voters to approve a new bond issue in November, but in the meantime, it's using a video to combat what it calls one of the biggest misconceptions about marijuana taxes and school funding.

The video, “How Marijuana Legalization Impacts Denver Public Schools”  is aimed at voters who don’t understand the reality of how state excise taxes on marijuana are used.

"I have people asking me all the time, why are we struggling with school funding when we have marijuana taxes? Truth be told, only a portion of the marijuana taxes were dedicated to public schools and only for capital construction,” State Sen. Pat Steadman said.

Seth Vanlaanen lives in Denver and said he supports the use of marijuana tax money for education.

"It has been making a lot of money and to my understanding, the majority of it goes to Colorado public schools, or at least the first $40 million," he said.

Vanlaanen is right, marijuana has been making a lot of money in state taxes, and the first $40 million in state excise taxes are earmarked for education. But in the first two years combined, the tax revenue didn’t reach that mark. Colorado schools received about $27 million.

Beyond that, the Denver Public Schools district points out that it hasn’t received any of the state tax money.

"Zero? Wow,” Vanlaanen said. “Why?"

DPS hasn’t applied for any of the capital construction grants in the past few years. The reason why is the grants are typically awarded to rural districts that struggle with bond support.

"Districts that don't have skyscrapers or shopping malls like we have here in Denver that contribute to the tax base," Steadman said.

"I think a little bit should still come back to the city,” Vanlaanen said. “That's where the money is being spent."

In the video, DPS indicates it gets about $1 per student from city taxes on marijuana but, in a statement, DPS indicated the real goal is to explain the need for a bond.

“DPS is not advocating for changing the way the tax revenue is distributed with this video," DPS said. "We are simply responding to one of the most common questions we receive about funding for our schools. The video is not intended to criticize; it's intended to educate.”