Politics 

The latest in cannabis legalization including laws and policies, legislators’ views, election coverage, and more.

Youth Center, Schools Win Colorado Cannabis Tax Grants

One of the nation’s most unique cannabis tax revenue programs, Colorado’s Local Government Marijuana Impact Grants, gave out its 2016 grant cycle awards last month, and the big winner was the town of Longmont.

Longmont will get $567,540 to remodel a fire station into a youth center. Two-thirds of that money came from cannabis taxes.

The town will receive $567,540 to remodel an old fire station into a youth center. Two-thirds of that money comes from cannabis tax receipts.

Here’s the interesting part: This particular grant is only available to municipalities that do not allow cannabis stores. The Local Government Marijuana Impact Grants were established in late 2015 with the idea of assisting communities that don’t allow retail stores but find themselves “experiencing impacts from the sale, transfer, cultivation or processing of retail marijuana or any illegal activity related to marijuana.”

This first round of grants, announced last month, are notable for which projects didn’t win the grants, and which did. By and large, projects that focused on youth substance abuse prevention had their proposals funded. Projects that only sought to beef up law enforcement capabilities did not.

Welcome to Longmont

Situated in rural northern Colorado about 15 miles northeast of Boulder, Longmont’s downtown business district looks like an old-timey main street, with tree-shaded sidewalks fronting two-story brick buildings. As nearby cities like Loveland, Fort Collins, and Boulder have all gentrified (and allowed retail cannabis sales), Longmont has remained pretty much untouched by the region’s economic upscaling.

It hasn’t been untouched by cannabis legalization, though, according to the terms of the grant. The 2015 Healthy Kids Survey found that Boulder County, which includes Longmont, scored in the top 25% of Colorado communities for cannabis use by high school students. So Longmont’s grant application proposed to remodel the Fire Station No. 3 at 1200 Lashley Street, turning it into a youth center that will give teens a place to gather, hang out, and focus their energy on constructive pursuits.

Christina Pacheco-Simms, manager of Longmont’s Children, Youth and Families department, explained what the grant will purchase. “$400,000 is for the fire station remodel, $21,940 is for office furniture, supplies, you know if we do any sort of fitness classes or anything, we would get some yoga balls and basically all types of supplies,” she said. “We have $73,600 for two vans. And then $72,000 for consultants, for alternatives for youth who provide iThrive substance abuse classes.”

Most $ Went to Youth Programs, Not Cops

Of the 15 municipal agencies that applied for this year’s Marijuana Impact Grants, 11 of them were law enforcement agencies. Most asked for $12,000 to $200,000 for more officers and equipment. But of the $985,760 in total grants, $813,137 went to non-police agencies. The bulk of the police-granted money went to the Otero County Sheriff’s Department, which received $128,647 to purchase equipment and improve its training. (Over the past year, Otero County has been dealing with a number of illegal cannabis growing operations.)

In addition to Longmont’s $567,540 grant, the state awarded $219,200 to the Jefferson County School District for educational training and data collection. The complete list of grant applicants and winners is available here.

Colo department of local affairs image
Click on image to enlarge.

Next up: allowing retail stores, maybe

Even as Longmont officials celebrated news of the award, they realized that this could be their final year as a qualifying town. Local legalization proponents are attempting to loosen the regulations on cannabis stores allowed within the city limits, which would allow a total of six retail outlets.

Longmont may soon allow retail cannabis shops for the first time.

The proposal stipulates that the six stores would have to be located on the outskirts of town, a good distance from any schools. Longmont city staff members are currently drafting up the details of that proposal. City Manager Harold Dominguez says it’s at least a month away from coming before the city council.

Earlier this month, on March 2, Longmont’s city council voted to limit home cannabis growers to six plants per resident. The vote was unanimous.

Would Longmont have to return the youth center grant if it’s no longer a “cannabis-free” town? “It could impact our qualifications for applying for any future funding,” said Pacheco-Simms. “But no, with regards to this particular award, the City of Longmont would not have to give the money back.”