Colorado Public Marijuana Giveaway Goes Smoothly

At downtown Denver's Civic Park yesterday, there were long lines for public marijuana giveaway. Police were on hand, but all went smoothly.

Shouting "Free the weed!" scores of marijuana lovers stood in line Monday for free joints offered by opponents of tax issues on the statewide and Denver ballots in November.

"It is legal to hand out marijuana to people in Colorado and it is legal to do it without paying a penny in taxes!" shouted [attorney]Rob Corry, who helped organize the event at Denver's Civic Center.

The giveaway was organized to protest a measure on this year's ballot, Proposition AA, which sets sales and excise taxes on marijuana. I support the tax and urge Coloradans to vote for it. [More...]

It asks Colorado voters to approve a 15 percent excise tax and an initial 10 percent sales tax on the sale of recreational marijuana that begins Jan. 1. Corry also opposes Denver's tax question that could add a 3.5 percent initial sales tax with the option to hike it up to 15 percent.

About a pound of marijuana was given away. Where did it come from?

[Corry] said the marijuana had been seized by the North Metro Drug Task Force "a long time ago" from a medical-marijuana provider but recently returned.

Under Amendment 64 passed by voters and now in effect, adult personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is legal, as is transferring up to an ounce between adults. Commercial sales begin January 1.

The group opposing the tax believes marijuana should be taxed at the same rate as alcohol, which is less than 1%. Its PR release for yesterday's event said:

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.

Others disagree.

“We really think that we need to keep the promise to Colorado voters by passing this; by establishing a regulatory structure and making Colorado a model for how to appropriately and responsibly regulate this product,” explained Brian Vicente, chairman of the Committee for Responsible Regulation and co-author of Amendment 64.

Supporters also believe the higher taxes are necessary to have adequate funds to enforce the strict regulations that are the only thing keeping DOJ at bay.

Not all the money goes to enforcement:

Revenue from the excise tax will go toward public school construction, while the money collected from the retail tax will back the regulations that were enacted by the Legislature.

The taxes are expected to bring in around $70 million a year, with the first $40 million going to school construction. The remainder will be used for enforcing the regulations.

I support the tax. I've always said, tax and regulate. I don't think it's a sin tax. It's the price of ensuring regulations are adequate and fairly enforced, which is essential to making Colorado's new law successful. If Colorado successfully implements legalization, it will spread to other states. If it fails, other states will be more wary.

What's the cost of an ounce of marijuana in Colorado? Here's an index.

Colorado's regulatory rules on legal marijuana are here. A report on the fiscal impact is here.

There's no such thing as a free lunch in the drug business. Nor should anyone expect one.

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  • Display: Sort:
    Interesting idea (5.00 / 1) (#9)
    by Yman on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 07:48:16 PM EST
    Marijuana does cause some people with preexisting psychotic disorders to relapse; it is fair to tax to pay for their care and for drug treatment for whatever people develop drug dependence problems, whatever the drug.

    Wonder if this could be extended to guns and the immense costs associated with gun violence.

    Corry has a point... (none / 0) (#2)
    by kdog on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 07:34:53 AM EST
    ya don't wanna over-tax to the point where you let the black market back in...see NY City & State tobacco tax rates.

    A 15% and a 10% (and a 3.5% in Denver) doesn't sound all that excessive...but it might be better to start smaller and increase if additional funds are needed to regulate the market, with a little left over for some love for the schools.  I would think it would be more difficult to bring the taxes down than it would be to raise them.  

    The comparison to alcohol taxes is a valid point too, we know the societal cost for alcohol use is higher than marijuana use...a question of basic fairness.  Jack up the alcohol tax to keep ther marijuana tax more reasonable.

    All that being said, taxes beat citations (or worse, chains and cages)every day of the week!

    in fairness (none / 0) (#3)
    by nyjets on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:01:06 AM EST
    the black market with respect to cigarettes is nothing compared to the black market in drugs. It is almost like comparing apples to oranges.

    Not really... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 09:46:01 AM EST
    Cigarettes are legal, but because of excessive taxation a black market for this legal product is booming in NY.

    In CO where marijuana will soon be legal, the same thing could happen if the taxes are too high, defeating a couple of the purposes of legalization...to raise revenue and close the black market.  But the proposed marijuana tax rates in CO are far lower than the tax rates on tobacco in NY, so it shouldn't be an issue unless they jack the rates way higher than the proposed rates sometime in the future.


    the violence is not the same (none / 0) (#6)
    by nyjets on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:02:59 AM EST
    The violence associated with drug market is a lot more than the drug violence associated with cigarettes. That is what I mean when you talk apples and oranges.

    Violence is associated... (none / 0) (#7)
    by kdog on Tue Sep 10, 2013 at 10:13:27 AM EST
    with all black markets, illegal drugs aren't special.

    Weed is (none / 0) (#10)
    by Mikado Cat on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 01:54:33 AM EST
    well, a weed, it grows very easily. It will be like Zucchini only people with no friends will buy it.

    Not true... (none / 0) (#11)
    by kdog on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 09:59:50 AM EST
    schwag grows easily, yes...but the good stuff takes horticultural skill.  If my state ever gets a brain from the wizard and legalizes, I might dabble with growing my own but I'm still gonna buy a higher quality from the pros. I've smoked my share of homegrown, it's hit or miss with more misses than hits.

    Gotta wonder where prices will stabilize at. (none / 0) (#12)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 10:07:44 AM EST
    The dope dealers I've known were business-people first.  Mercenary.

    But if you want to grow your own, the farm/garden section of Craigslist is littered with lights and watering systems being sold by husbands whose wives have apparently issued ultimatums.

    Note to our surveillors: I'm not involved.  Today's price, asset forfeiture, is way too high and in any case, I haven't the time.  Craigslist is just my Kubota supply depot.


    Need to find a better class... (none / 0) (#13)
    by kdog on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:11:43 AM EST
    of bush doctor Mr. Natty...most I've known were anything but mercenary, just dudes and dudettes looking to make a couple extra bucks and smoke for free.  That's the downside of legalization if it catches on...the market will become just another corporate cut-throat business, and the friendly neighborhood bush doctor will be driven out of business.  We will lose the comraderie of the black market reefer trade.  A shame, but part of the deal with progress I'm afraid...most important to call off the drug war dogs.

    Yup... (none / 0) (#15)
    by ScottW714 on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:45:30 AM EST
    ...no more 3am deliveries.

    You know in Texas, you can't buy liquor on Sundays and you can't buy beer until noon, yet restaurants can serve both at 6am.  So Katz' gets a decent 'been up all night' crowd because they have a full bar.

    The noon thing kills me, especially with electronic cash registers that won't let you buy it 10 mins early so you don't miss the Texans noon kickoff.

    The blackmarket has no such rules, so long as you got the cabbage 'There are no rules', well except that if the dealer man says 5, you will be lucky to have it in hand by 7.

    But I was thinking yesterday, corporate America has more or less stayed out of the hard liquor industry.  They are there, but it's not noticeable, and they have kind of left it alone.  That is one market that the little guy can still enter and remain competitive.

    Doesn't matter, until weed is removed off of Schedule I, no corporation will ever enter a market in which the IRS doesn't allow the deduction of business expenses.  Plus the liability of producing a medicine/drug that isn't legal would be too big of a liability for any Inc to mess with.


    High Times ahead (none / 0) (#16)
    by Mikado Cat on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 01:03:16 AM EST
    Now days you can buy excellent seeds through the mail, then sort the plants by sex (no clue how, but thats what is done), add water, trim from time to time.

    The original reason, beyond a racist attack on Mexican's, was to protect the alcohol industry, but that could be countered now by the snack food industry.


    "6 ways your life is personally affected (none / 0) (#14)
    by Mr Natural on Wed Sep 11, 2013 at 11:25:42 AM EST
    by the War on Drugs:

    US drug policy has unequivocally curtailed your basic civil rights, regardless of whether you're a user..."

    I know, preaching to the choir...

    Someday .... (none / 0) (#17)
    by Mikado Cat on Thu Sep 12, 2013 at 01:04:57 AM EST
    People will be stopped by government agents who demand you show them your papers, then say, roll a few I got twinkies.