Pro-marijuana tax campaign launched

Supporters say levies would legitimize industry

DENVER – Most businesses would never ask for a steep tax increase.

But most businesspeople don’t sell a product that would have landed them in prison less than a year ago.

A group of marijuana entrepreneurs and state legislators got together Wednesday to launch the campaign for Proposition AA, which asks voters to impose heavy taxes on recreational marijuana.

Proponents say the taxes are necessary to legitimize the industry and pay for inspectors and regulators to keep the business clean.

“This is not only about protecting communities, but it’s about making sure marijuana pays its own way,” said Rep. Jonathan Singer, D-Longmont, who sponsored the bill that put Prop AA on the ballot.

Last November, voters legalized the use of marijuana by people age 21 and older.

Legislators now are asking for a 15 percent wholesale excise tax and a 10 percent retail sales tax on pot. Most or all of the excise tax will go to school construction, as required by the 2012 vote.

The 10 percent sales tax will be earmarked for government inspectors and health programs.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it would not sue Colorado or crack down on its pot shops as long as the state is operating a strict regulatory system.

Brian Vicente, head of the pro-Prop AA Committee for Responsible Regulation, said the Justice Department announcement makes it all the more important to pass the tax.

Vicente said his group is fundraising and does not yet have an advertising budget. The state’s largest union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, has contributed $10,000 – the campaign’s only sizeable donation.

Rob Corry, a prominent marijuana lawyer, has registered an opposition campaign named No Over Taxation. As of Tuesday, it reported just $700 in contributions, all from Corry’s family and workers in his law office.

The last publicly available poll on the topic was in April, when Public Policy Polling found 77 percent support for the taxes.

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