Opinion

Tri-City Herald: Refusing marijuana money makes no sense in Prosser

School funding is woefully inadequate, according to the state Supreme Court, most legislators and just about any local school official we encounter. It doesn’t adequately cover the basics, let alone the extras.

That’s why we’re dumbfounded as to why the Prosser School District turned down a $14,000 donation from an area businessman just to make a point.

Randy Williams, owner of Fireweed Farms, is one of the few licensed marijuana growers in the Lower Yakima Valley. He held a perfectly legal auction of his product earlier this month.

The sale generated $600,000. Of that, he offered $14,000 to the Prosser School District.

That’s the kind of generosity normally applauded and encouraged.

But Prosser School Board turned down the money. They said accepting it would send the wrong message to young people.

Washington State Lottery funds have been used in various ways to assist with education and school construction over the years statewide. Should schools reject those funds to avoid sending the wrong message about gambling?

For years, the Prosser School District took revenue to allow a wine festival to be held in the football stadium each summer despite criticism. If a winery wanted to donate or provide scholarships would those offers be rejected?

School officials don’t like the fact that marijuana is legal. But it is. Rejecting the donation to make a point rather than using those funds for the betterment of their students demonstrates poor stewardship. The school could have used it for drug education and prevention.

Sin taxes are appealing because they take supposedly “bad” behavior and raise revenue to pay for good programs. The consumers of legal products like alcohol and tobacco pay a premium for their indulgences, as do those who like shameful substances like sweets, soda and bottled water.

Prosser is home the only state-sanctioned recreational marijuana shop in our region, so the situation is even more ironic. The school superintendent, Ray Tolcacher, was a vocal opponent of the store’s approval by city officials.

The superintendent says schools across the state are catching more kids with marijuana since I-502 was passed in 2012, even though the law still makes pot illegal for those under 21.

District officials could have done all kinds of things with the green stuff raised from the auction of that other green stuff. A lesson in the state initiative process would have been a good one or they could have paid for a drug-awareness program.

We don’t see a lot of business owners offering up such sizeable donations. Williams now has offered the money to the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties.

Let’s hope he finds a grateful organization for his charity this holiday season.

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