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Jared Polis Criticizes Claim Marijuana Legalization Will Cost CU Federal Funding

Tyler Howarth
Flickr - Creative Commons

In an email sent late Friday, University of Colorado President Bruce Benson warned that the recent passage of Amendment 64 to legalize marijuana in Colorado threatens to cost the university nearly $1 billion annually in federal revenue.

President Benson says that money would be at risk because CU is required to comply with the federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act that bans illicit drugs from campus.

“The loss of that funding would have substantial ripple effects on our students and our state. CU contributes $5.3 billion to Colorado's economy annually, a good portion of it derived from our research.”

Benson, a Republican, noted in the email that he was personally opposed to Amendment 64 and did work on his own time to defeat the measure.

U.S. RepresentativeJaredPolis, a Democrat from Boulder, responded via his Twitter accountcalling Benson's email "false and misleading."

The federal Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act referred to in Benson's email does require the University of Colorado at Boulder prohibits the unlawful manufacture, dispensation, possession, use, or distribution of a controlled substance (illicit drugs and alcohol) of any kind and of any amount.

The University’s alcohol and drug policy bans the use of alcohol and marijuana on campus to satisfy the federal requirement.

Polis is asking Benson to retract his message.

“I will not stand by and allow the reputation of the University of Colorado to be sullied by the non-existent threat of losing one billion dollars. As the federal representative the University of Colorado at Boulder, I want to reassure parents, students, and faculty that CU is not in danger of losing any federal funding due to Amendment 64.”

President Benson has not personally responded to Polis' criticism. In the email, he also voiced concerns about CU’s reputation and cited work that his administration has done to combat the notion that CU is a party school.

One example is the administration's opposition in 2012to the unofficial 420 celebration. In previous years, students and community members would gather on campus to smoke marijuana on April 20 at 4:20 p.m. University officials went to great lengths this yearspending $278,797.52 to snuff out the smoke out.

My journalism career started in college when I worked as a reporter and Weekend Edition host for WEKU-FM, an NPR member station in Richmond, KY. I graduated from Eastern Kentucky University with a B.A. in broadcast journalism.
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