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Marijuana Revenue Will Help Pay Teachers In South Dakota

South Dakota, a deep red state with a maverick streak, is battling to reduce its sales taxes. One proposal picking up steam is marijuana legalization.

Proponents of regulating cannabis for adult use are already pushing for a ballot measure to be placed on the 2018 ballot. According to those putting together the measure, the legislation would help pay for teachers’ salaries and school supplies.

“Quit raising my taxes and start taxing this industry we already have in South Dakota,” Melissa Mentele, director of cannabis advocacy group New Approach South Dakota, told the Argus Leader. “We’re going to take something that’s costing our state to prosecute cannabis cases, we’re going to tax cannabis instead and use that money to educate our children.”

The proposed measure would allow state residents to grow five cannabis plants and possess up to one ounce of dried flower without fear of arrest.

But the idea is not getting a warm welcome among state Republicans and law enforcement agencies.

“Never. Absolutely not,” South Dakota House Speaker Mark Mickelson (R-Sioux Falls) told the Argus Leader. “Tax yourself for something you need, don’t tax someone else for their path to destruction.”

South Dakota is not alone in its desire to allocate revenue from cannabis to education.

  • In Colorado, the first $40 million collected each year goes to the state’s Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) fund, which goes to school construction projects. The state Department of Education also receives funding (more than $8 million last year) for various initiatives, including programs to reduce illiteracy, anti-bullying and the dropout rate.
  • Oregon’s law distributes 40 percent of marijuana tax revenue to the state’s Common School Fund, by far the largest beneficiary.
  • Nearly all of Washington’s cannabis revenues goes directly to the general fund, where it is then disbursed to programs, including education initiatives. There is a debate among the state legislators to divert some of the revenue directly to the schools. “I believe marijuana dollars should go into education,” said Republican state Sen. Ann Rivers, who is member of a special task force focused on the education budget.

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