Where does the marijuana money go?

Updated on Mon, 07/23/2018 - 5:02pm

Contrary to popular opinion, school districts do not get a percentage of marijuana sales tax to contribute to district operational costs.

Of the tax revenue collected from marijuana sales, $40 million is set aside from the excise tax (15%) into a statewide grant fund called the BEST program. If districts want to receive any funding from marijuana sales in the state, they are required to apply for grant-funding only to be used for construction costs. All 178 school districts in Colorado must apply for matching funds (the match provided by the school district is generally higher than the grant received) with awards typically going to lower funded or rural districts. Read below for funding Adams 12 Five Star Schools has received from the BEST grant. 

In addition, a special sales tax (15%) is collected, of which 90% goes to the state and 12.59% goes to the State Public Education Fund. This fund is controlled by legislation and does not go directly to the school districts to decide where to spend it. In 2017-18, $30 million went to rural districts. Adams 12 Five Star Schools has yet to receive any money from this fund. 

For comparison, the state funding budget for 2016-17 was $6.3 billion. 

New As of July 1, 2018
Instead of a flat $40 million designated for the BEST Grant, now the funds will be either $40 million or 90% of the excise tax received, whichever is greater.

>>Read more on marijuana funding from the Colorado Department of Education


The Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grant program, established in 2008, provides an annual amount of funding in the form of competitive grants to school districts, charter schools, and boards of cooperative educational services. The BEST program uses a variety of sources, of which marijuana tax revenue is one of them with a cap of $40 million. If awarded, BEST Funds can be used by schools for the construction of new schools as well as general construction and renovation of existing school facility systems and structures. A portion of that money includes the revenue from a 15-percent excise on the sale tax from retail marijuana products.

The BEST grant requires schools to match funds for projects. In 2017, the grant issued $60 million while districts will provide $101.5 million in matching contributions. A full list of approved BEST Grants can be found here.


In 2018 we were awarded a grant of $586,000 to replace the 65,750 sf of deficient roof at the International School at Thornton Middle.  The $586,000 represents 44% of the total $1.33M for the project, as we are required to contribute a minimum of 56%, per grant requirements.  This grant will replace the entire roof, which was deemed past its useful life in several district-wide assessments. 

We also applied for a district-wide safety and security project which was aimed to supplement our district's card-reader systems that are coming to the end of their useful life.  The total project was valued at $1.27M, of which the grant would have constituted 56 percent.  This project was not immediately awarded, but was put in a select group of projects that will be awarded should other districts not be able to produce their matching funds for their awarded projects (for example, in the case that their grant is dependent on a bond passing this November).  The district may consider re-submitting this grant application next year.

In 2017 we were awarded a grant of $532,000 to replace the 53,200sqft of deficient roof and skylights at Hillcrest ES.  The $532,000 represents 43 percent of the total $1.23M for the project, as we were required to contribute a minimum of 57 percent (the minimum matching amount in 2017) per grant requirements.  The 53,200sqft is just shy of the entire roof, as the 2011 addition and a recent roof replacement over the entryway did not require replacement. 

We had also applied for a $6M for the addition and renovation at STEM Lab, but was denied. 

In 2014 we were awarded a grant to replace several portions of the lower roof at STEM Launch. The work was completed Summer 2016. The grant covered more than half of the cost, while the district funded the remaining portion. However, funding for that year's grants was prior to the inclusion of marijuana money.