DENVER (KDVR) — Schools supported by the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program have lost millions in funding this year, and the answer may lie within the marijuana industry.

Many kids across Colorado walked through brand new school doors this year, partly paid for with the $580 million from Colorado cannabis. But compared to last year, the funding coming from cannabis was nearly cut in half.

The BEST program provides funding to educational institutions through tax revenue. Cannabis funding accounts for almost 30% of the entire BEST program’s budget.

Usually, a minimum of $40 million of excise taxes collected on cannabis goes to support the BEST program annually.

However, the cannabis industry struggled in 2022 and so far in 2023, sending recreational sales down 11.7% since July 2022, and medical sales down 22.8%, according to the Colorado Department of Revenue.

Since last August, state tax revenue has been down 16.8%, resulting in millions less in revenue for programs that fund education, mental health and substance abuse treatment, public safety and more.

In the 2021-2022 fiscal year, cannabis tax revenue allotted to educational services reached nearly $98 million. This year, the revenue was nearly cut in half and only contributed $56 million.

Cannabis sales were down nearly $100 million in 2022, and it’s expected to be even lower this year.

Truman Bradley, executive director of the Marijuana Industry Group, attributes the loss of sales to the strict marijuana policies in Colorado.

“Cannabis small business owners are proud to support Colorado kids and schools, but as state cannabis sales continue to fall, it impacts the state as a whole,” said Bradley in a press release. “More than half a billion dollars has been invested so far to benefit communities across the state, and if that is going to continue, Colorado needs to look at new policies to streamline regulations while continuing to be protective of public safety.”

Since the legalization of marijuana, hundreds of millions of dollars in cannabis tax revenue has helped schools purchase brand-new or improved facilities. However, the decline in sales also means less money for schools.