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Colo. Schools to Hire Health Workers With $2.5 Million in Marijuana Tax Revenue

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Colorado awarded nearly a $1 million in grants to schools this week to hire health workers using revenue generated by a tax on sales of marijuana, which is now legal for recreational and medical uses in the state.

In an upcoming second round, the state will award the rest of a total of $2.5 million in revenue generated by the tax, the Denver Post reports. Recipient schools will use the grants to hire nurses, social workers, counselors, and school psychologists.

The grants are yet another interesting facet of Colorado voters' decision in 2012 to legalize and regulate marijuana sales. 

As we've reported previously, tightened school budgets around the country have led to a declining numbers of student support staff, including school nurses and counselors. 

But will Colorado's new student support staff spend some time offsetting the effects of marijuana use in students? While there is conflicting research about whether marijuana legalization leads to increased use by teens, even advocates for de-criminalizing the drug agree that there should be age limits on its use.

One school official quoted in the Post story said it plans to use the grants for substance-abuse prevention, though he did not tie the need for such programming to the legalization effort:

"David Rein, director of development at the New America School, said they will use the $169,232 grant to hire three full-time nurses or social workers—one for each campus— to focus on programs to prevent substance abuse.

Counselors at New America surveyed students in September, and results show that 32 percent reported marijuana use of more than 10 times in a month.

'Our student population is over 95 percent at-risk,' Rein said. 'Given the population, I would say our counselors are overburdened with all these challenges. And if you add on the additional problems of substance abuse, there's a great need for having this kind of additional staff.' "

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