Complaint: Free weed at rally not reported
The joints were free to those who attended rallies last month opposing taxation on the retail sale of marijuana, but they still needed to be included in campaign finance reports as contributions, a Denver ethics group says.
That’s why the left-leaning Colorado Ethics Watch on Tuesday filed a campaign finance complaint with the Secretary of State’s Office against an issue committee that opposes a ballot measure imposing taxes on the retail sale of marijuana, saying it didn’t disclose from where it got the marijuana cigarettes that it gave away or what they cost.
In the complaint, the ethics group said the committee, No Over Taxation, held two protest events in Denver and Boulder last month where they gave away free marijuana cigarettes.
But in the committee’s campaign finance reports, it didn’t note the cost of those cigarettes either as expenses or in-kind donations.
“This committee needs to explain how it acquired the marijuana distributed at its campaign events so that voters are well-informed on who is sending this message,” said Luis Toro, executive director of the ethics group. “Voters deserve to know who is providing this campaign with marijuana and office space, and Colorado law requires these contributions to be disclosed.”
The committee could not be reached for comment, but its treasurer, Denver attorney Robert Corry, said in a Sept. 21 letter to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that thousands attended the Denver event.
“To protest these high taxes and bring public attention to our cause, the ‘No on Proposition AA’ campaign will provide our own variety of flood relief, free marijuana joints to all adults age 21 and older,” Corry wrote in the letter, which was inviting Biden to attend the Boulder protest while he was visiting the state to view damage from the Front Range floods.
“Part of this Boulder joint giveaway is to illustrate the existence of a high demand for marijuana, to show that people are still hurting from this poor economy enough to line up for hours for a mere joint,” he wrote. “Beleaguered flood victims need some kind of relief from their depression and stress in dealing with this difficult challenge. Marijuana will bring joy, relief and sunshine now that the clouds have parted, the rains have ended and flood recovery begins.”
The letter says that it didn’t formally count how many marijuana cigarettes it handed out, but that local media reports for its Denver event estimated that more than 4,000 joints were given away.
The ethics group complains that despite that number, the committee only listed in its Sept. 16 campaign filing a 1 cent contribution for marijuana, which came from Corry, who is treasurer of the committee.
The complaint also alleges that the committee isn’t noting rent for office space, which is the same as Corry’s law offices.
“We’re not sure that 4,000 people got (joints), but definitely it was more than 1 cent worth, which is what they reported,” Toro said. “It gets into some questionable territory because the legal basis for them handing out the joints is, Colorado law says it’s OK to give up to one ounce of marijuana to somebody for free, but who gave them the marijuana? That’s important information for voters because this whole issue comes down to regulation of marijuana.”
The proposition, which the Colorado Legislature placed on the ballot after voters last year approved Amendment 64, legalizing retail marijuana, calls for a 15 percent excise tax and a 10 percent sales tax on all retail sales.
The measure also calls for a portion of revenues from those taxes, which is estimated to be about $70 million a year, to go to school construction. It also allows for 15 percent of the sales tax, which would be on top of state and local sales taxes, to go to those communities where sales occur.
The Mesa County Board of Commissioners banned retail marijuana sales, so it won’t see any of those tax revenues.