Democratic candidate for state superintendent of education Sheila Gallagher is proposing that South Carolina legalize marijuana as a way to raise new tax money for schools.
"Between the tax dollars you could bring in and stop putting some of our kids in prison and such, we could probably raise about $188 million a year, and if that would be the case that would be great because we could have the best schools in the nation, and that's what we're really looking for," she says.
Right now, Colorado and Washington are the only states that have legalized recreational marijuana use. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana.
Colorado estimates it could bring in $98 million in marijuana tax money this year. The first $40 million is earmarked for school construction, but where the rest of the money will go hasn't been decided.
Washington estimates it could bring in $190 million over four years. Its marijuana tax money is earmarked for health care, youth drug prevention, public health and research.
Gallagher knows it will be tough to get lawmakers in a conservative state like South Carolina to pass legalizing marijuana, but her plan is to get them to pass a constitutional amendment referendum, so it would be up to voters to decide. She says, "I'd like to turn it over to the people and say, 'Here's an opportunity. Let's look at this whole idea of legalizing marijuana and see what it can do for us.'"
However, he says the additional money is needed. "I think it's enough to make a difference. Currently, we are underfunding, according to state law we are underfunding our public schools by roughly $700 million per year," he says.
The field is crowded in the race for education superintendent. Eight Republicans and four Democrats are running in the primaries.
For the Republicans: Sally Atwater, Gary Burgess, Meka Bosket Childs, Amy Cofield, Sheri Few, Don Jordan, Elizabeth Moffly, and Molly Mitchell Spearman.
For the Democrats: Montrio M Belton, Sr., Sheila C Gallagher, Jerry Govan, and Tom Thompson.