Hundreds of people lined up at Denver’s Civic Center Park on Monday to receive a free joint as part of a protest against Proposition AA, which would raise taxes on marijuana in the state of Colorado.
The taxes include a 15 percent excise tax and 10 percent sales tax, an overall hike that the activists — whose protest “No On Proposition AA” — say could cripple the legal pot industry and drive its economy back toward the black market.
“The marijuana industry wants to pay taxes and supports these issues very well but these measures would simply be too far and out of reach for people who consume marijuana,” said Miguel Lopez, who organized the free weed protest and added that supporters had to be 21 or older and present a valid ID to receive the joint. Public consumption of marijuana is still illegal in Colorado, and Lopez said he and his fellow activists were not encouraging its use.
Money generated from the increased excise taxes would go toward funding the Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) program, and the retail tax would go toward regulatory oversight and enforcement. Lopez and his campaign, however, see a different story playing out.
From the “No On Proposition AA” press release:
Amendment 64 was sold as the "Alcohol Marijuana Equalization Initiative." Marijuana taxes should be fair and equivalent to Colorado alcohol taxes, which are less than 1%. Passage of Proposition AA creates public safety problems. A bloated and greedy government does not serve the Public Interest. The joint handout is a real-time demonstration of basic economics: Proposition AA's extreme taxes will undercut the Regulated Marijuana Market, and illegal Black Market and legal Gray Market (which is legal, but untaxed and unregulated) will both expand when the Government parasite kills the Industry host.
It goes on:
These taxes are in addition to 2.9% local sales tax and 7.62% sales tax in Denver. Adding to the tax burden, Denver is proposing an extreme 15% local sales tax. In Denver alone, the tax rate has the potential to become 52.62%.
These tax increases will decimate small and medium sized marijuana businesses. Only corporations the size of Walmart or Phillip Morris will be able to grow the amounts of marijuana necessary to be able to afford these extreme taxes.
Colorado voters will decide on Nov. 5 whether they support the tax hike. Advocates of the increase point to one of two things happening if voters reject the proposition. The state will have to “take money from education and other programs in Colorado to fund this industry, or [it’ll] have lackluster or lax enforcement,” argued State Rep. Dan Pabon (D-Denver) to Our Colorado News.
As the supply dwindled on Monday, supporters began chanting “We want weed!” But some of the advocates downplayed the recreation of the drug, as their prescriptions for medical marijuana have enabled them to reap life-altering benefits.
Gulf War veteran Randy Notz said he suffers from a traumatic brain injury and qualifies for marijuana under Colorado's medical marijuana law, the Associated Press reports. Notz showed up early and waited in line to receive his single joint.
“I paid for two hours of parking and stood in line for one joint,” he said, “because I've been campaigning for this right for a long time.”
The event’s marijuana was donated by a local attorney who recently received it as part of a settlement, after authorities deemed it was seized illegally, according to Larisa Bolivar, campaign manager for opponents of the ballot measure.