It’s not $14,000 but it may be the thought that counts.
The Prosser School District has received its share of criticism since turning down a large donation from a lower Yakima Valley marijuana grower last month.
But there’s also been encouragement from within the district, the Northwest and the nation, including a check for $100 from a woman in Vancouver, Wash.
“Thank you for having a backbone and doing what is right for the children, the schools and the community,” the note accompanying the check said. “Hopefully your action will provide others a model of proper behavior.”
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Superintendent Ray Tolcacher said he stood by the Prosser School Board’s decision to refuse the money.
He and the district have moved on, though, noting that many of the decisions they make aren’t simple and don’t please everyone.
“It’s like when I make a snow (day) call — someone’s going to like it and someone’s not,” Tolcacher said.
Randy Williams, owner of Fireweed Farms just north of town, first approached the district about the $14,000 donation just before Thanksgiving, the Yakima Herald-Republic reported.
The money came from the sale of one low-grade lot of marijuana during the state’s first ever marijuana auction on Nov. 15.
Williams made about $600,000 from the sale.
Concern about sending mixed signals to students about marijuana, combined with federal prohibitions on the drug while the district receives federal dollars for some programs, led Tolcacher and the board to turn down the money, the superintendent said. The Prosser branch of the Boys & Girls Club also rejected the donation.
Williams ended up giving $1,000 to the Prosser VFW post and $13,000 to a needy Prosser-area family.
Tolcacher said he hasn’t gone out to seek public opinion on the decision, but there’s been emails and calls to the district offices — some to lambast, some to praise.
“God bless you and grant you continued strength to resist such attempts to ‘legitimize’ marijuana,” read one note from a Prosser couple.
Others criticized the decision, saying the money came from a licensed and lawful business in the state and that students shouldn’t suffer because some view marijuana as morally wrong.
They cited other actions the district has benefited from that can be perceived as hypocritical, such as formerly playing host to the Prosser Wine & Food Fair at the high school’s Art Fiker Stadium, even though students can’t legally consume alcohol.
The district also benefits from the state lottery, though students can’t buy Powerball or Scratch tickets.
Tolcacher acknowledged the mixed message that the wine and food fair sent to students, which prompted the school board to no longer allow the event to be held at the stadium, even though organizers still use the parking lot for event parking.
The district also doesn’t like to turn away money, Tocacher said, but he and the board saw that as the only acceptable choice.
“It was a difficult decision,” he said.