DENVER – The Denver FBI honored a youth dropout prevention group Thursday, apparently without realizing it is partially funded with taxes from the marijuana industry.
The U.S. Justice Department, the FBI's parent agency, considers the voter-approved marijuana industry operating in Colorado and other states illegal, and new U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has indicated he wants stronger enforcement of federal law.
But Thursday's episode reaffirmed that revenue from sales of the drug has gotten so widely dispersed that it can be tough to keep track of the scores of entities counting on it for at least some support.
Youth on Record Executive Director Jami Duffy mentioned the funding the group receives as she accepted the Director's Community Leadership Award at Denver FBI headquarters.
"If anybody asks you where that money is going, you can say, `I know for sure that some of it is going to Youth on Record and the 1,000 teenagers that they serve,"' Duffy said as FBI Special Agent in Charge Calvin Shivers and other officials stood nearby.
She said after her acceptance speech that the program that focuses on music received $75,000 in marijuana tax revenue last year from the city of Denver and is expecting an additional $148,000 this year.
Asked about the funding, FBI spokeswoman Amy Sanders pointed to the corporations and foundations listed as donors on Youth on Record's website . That list does not include the marijuana-based funding.
FBI staff at the field office voted for Youth on Record over one other finalist for the community award.
Sam Kamin, a marijuana law and policy professor at the University of Denver, said the situation illustrates how inextricable marijuana tax revenue has become from Colorado's economy.
"We sort of have gotten numb to the fact that this money has come through the state and through the federal reserve system (through bank deposits) and then to other organizations," Kamin said.
Colorado's 2012 constitutional amendment that legalized recreational marijuana requires that some money collected from state excise taxes go to public schools. Other groups that have received marijuana funding include the Future Farmers of America, the 4-H Club and state juvenile diversion programs.
Colorado brought in close to $200 million in taxes and fees last year from $1.3 billion in medical and recreational marijuana sales.
Cities and counties that have legalized pot shops get a cut of those state taxes, but they can levy their own pot taxes as well and have greater latitude in how to spend locally generated revenue.