Even as the press reports on Oklahoma’s public education budgetary woes, it appears that not all schools are open to accepting all donations. A marijuana dispensary chain was surprised to have their monetary gift to Ponca City Public Schools rejected.
The district’s superintendent Shelly Arrott released a media statement that said the rejection was due to nervousness over how the donation would affect federal funding.
“Accepting donations from a medical marijuana dispensary is uncharted territory for Oklahoma school districts in relation to federal funding sources,” she said. “At this time, the district cannot risk compromising these funding sources which are relied on heavily for the education of students.”
The company in question is Flippin Farms, which currently operates four dispensaries in the state and is planning to open four more. One of the company’s owners expressed his surprise over the situation to a local news site.
“If it’s OK for them to take tax money from this industry, why not be able to take money straight from this industry?” asked Corey Fisher. “We were just kind of confused and alarmed that in a school district that is constantly underfunded, we’re willing to walk in there, and [say], ‘Hey, I can write you a personal check,’ […] and they just declined.”
Fisher was referring to the fact that in Oklahoma, 75 percent of surplus medical cannabis tax revenue is received by the public school system. He rightly asked why, then, wouldn’t they take the cash directly from a dispensary?
Oklahoma Schools Are Struggling
The news dropped a day before a media report came out about how Oklahoma schools in struggling districts have been forced to make funding tradeoffs when it comes to much-needed school security measures like security guards.
Across the country, many states have tied school funding to cannabis sales. In Colorado, cannabis revenues that have gone to K-12 education via the 2014 passage of the state’s Amendment 64 have topped $283 million. The state has chosen to prioritize the construction of new schools, and sends the first $40 million raised each year towards that purpose. The plan has proven so popular that legislators have pushed for an increase in the amount of pot money that is shunted to schools.
For their part, the Flippin Farms team seems confident that they will be able to put their money towards the state’s public education in the future.
“Hopefully we can strike a good chord with the school district and we can come to an understanding,” Fisher continued. “And if nothing else, just open a dialogue.”
“We’re here to help not only our patients, but we also want to give back to the local community—they support us,” he added.
Arrott also alluded to the fact that forthcoming collaborations with the dispensary could be possible. “In the future, we would certainly appreciate the opportunity to work with […] Flippin to accept donations to help our students if it will not in any way jeopardize district revenue sources,” she said.