Opponents of a proposed 25 percent combined sales and excise tax for recreational marijuana gave away as many as 4,000 free joints in Denver’s Civic Center Park Monday.
The handout wasn’t just for kicks, but to kick off a campaign to vote no on Proposition AA in November, a statewide ballot measure that would levy a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products.
The taxing proposal, which must be approved by voters before it goes into effect, is one of many measures Colorado is trying to impose around the state’s embryonic recreational pot industry.
Critics say that heavily taxing pot runs the risk of making it more expensive than what’s available on the black market, thereby defeating the purpose of legalizing it.
But revenue from the new tax is earmarked for education and industry regulation, leaving lawmakers who proposed the tax scheme in the delicate position of needing to raise enough to cover its obligations, but not so much that it would drive buyers to the black market.
“The joint handout is a real-time demonstration of basic economics,” according to a press release announcing the event. “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.”
“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,” Miguel Lopez of the “No on Proposition AA Campaign” told Denver’s Fox31.
Colorado voters approved the legal use, sale and possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for adults 21 and over in November. Until a regulatory framework for buying and selling can be worked out, such transactions remain illegal.
But giving away free joints to adults in a public park is not. People began lining up early for the 11 a.m. event, with organizers checking IDs.
Denver city attorney Doug Friednas told the Denver Post the event was legal as long as the pot wasn’t sold or consumed in public.
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