Like the Roaring Fork River, millions of dollars tied to the marijuana excise tax are flowing into Glenwood Springs.
"It's a lot of money," Rob Stein, Roaring Fork School District superintendent, said.
The Roaring Fork School District received a $9 million grant from the BEST program which stands for Building Excellent Schools Today. The grant will pay for the reconstruction of an addition to Glenwood Springs Elementary School, tripling the size of an overcrowded building.
"There are some outlying buildings that were built over a series of decades from the 1950s to the 1970s. I think they're way beyond their useful life," Stein said. "They weren't unfortunately very well built to begin with and so we're going to tear those down and build something that will last us a century this time."
The BEST program receives up to $40 million per year on taxes collected on wholesale transfers of marijuana.
"People keep asking me well with all this marijuana revenue, we should be able to build a lot of school buildings. We should have a lot of school funding." Stein said.
But, he wants to put things in perspective. The $9 million BEST grant was used in addition to $18 million the district had to generate on its own as part of a $122 million bond issue approved by voters to fix building needs all across the school district.
"It was a pretty smart move of those people who are trying to get the marijuana legislation passed to try to tie it to schools because it's certainly where people have that impression," Stein said. "It's just not accurate that marijuana excise taxes are the difference makers for schools or school facilities."
Mason Tvert is the director of communications for the Marijuana Policy Project.
"I think a lot of folks don't realize just how big a state budget is," Tvert said. "When we proposed this initiative,we never said it was going to fully fund schools or solve all of Colorado's fiscal woes. We said it was going to generate tens of millions of dollars for schools and it is doing just that."
The marijuana industry last year generated around $130 million in state taxes. Out of that total $35 million went to the BEST Program. Tvert knows that's only a small portion of the total BEST fund, but he says it's still significant.
"I want to pay my rent that is a thousand dollars a month, so am I going to disregard the fact that someone just gave me a hundred dollars," Tvert said.
The rest of the tax money gets divvied up between the general fund, state mandates like drug education, and costs to administer the marijuana regulations. Local governments can also collect their own sales taxes.
"We are also seeing some communities for example, Aurora, spending some of that money on addressing homelessness issues. We're seeing Pueblo spending that money on school scholarships for local high school students."
Stein is not ungrateful for the marijuana tax money. But, he wonders if its truly worth it.
"There is certainly a positive contribution to the school facilities funding from the marijuana excise tax," Stein said. "What we don't know yet is the total societal costs of marijuana legalization."