Jeff Hunt has never been a fan of Colorado voters approving the legalization of recreational cannabis, but he's been waging a very public war on pot since April, when he created a petition to ban the Denver 420 Rally. Since then, the Centennial Institute director has penned an op-ed for USA Today chastising the state's decision to legalize, held a conference at Colorado Christian University to rally fellow cannabis opponents and participated in a broadcast debate with a pro-cannabis attorney. Now he's going after Colorado lawmakers.
Hunt and CCU President Donald Sweeting recently sent a letter to Colorado politicians asking any who'd received a campaign donation from the cannabis industry to return it, calling the industry a "direct threat to the minds, health and well-being of Colorado’s youth.”
“Marijuana millionaires seeking to influence the political process are not good for Colorado," the letter reads. "We don't want public policy determined in closed-door, marijuana-smoke-filled rooms. For the past three and half years, the marijuana industry demonstrated they have one goal: hook as many people as they can on this dangerous drug. We don't want their drug money influencing politics.”
Hunt says he's in the process of sending the letter to every legislator in the state. Although he declines to offer specific names, he says that several legislators have reached out to discuss issues mentioned in the letter, including youth use rates, stoned drivers, cannabis smoke's effects on health and pregnancy and more.
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In particular, Hunt takes issue with conservative legislators who have received donations from the cannabis industry. "Conservatives are principled in the values that they care about. Whether it was taking money from abortion clinics, strip clubs or whatever conservatives are opposed to," Hunt explains. "When we found out the money that was pouring from both sides of the aisle, we wanted to make sure legislators knew what our response was."
The Colorado Senate Republicans and Colorado Republican Party declined to comment on Hunt's letter. State Representative Jonathan Singer, a sponsor of several bills that have advanced or protected Colorado's medical marijuana program and a public opponent of Hunt's op-ed in USA Today, declined to comment but cited a recent story on Colorado Politics . "I think Ian Silverii, the executive director of ProgressNow Colorado, said it best," Singer says.
Here's Silverii's quote from that story:
“I think it’s terrific that Jeff Hunt is being consistent in his disdain for marijuana and the commerce it brings to Colorado and, apparently, Republican campaign coffers as well. However, I suppose if he’s truly concerned with the ill effects certain industries have on the good people of our state, he should demand that all politicians return all of the money they get from firearms, tobacco, alcohol, pharmaceutical, oil and gas, and any other industry that produces a product that someone, somewhere deems dangerous. It’s the only way to be truly consistent, after all.”
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While the Centennial Institute and CCU have never called on legislators to return funds from alcohol or tobacco industries, Hunt says that's because those industries aren't as focused on conservative legislators.
Cannabis industry groups that lobby for commercial industry — the groups trying to hook America on a "dangerous drug," according to Hunt — also took exception to the letter.
"Just like any other legal industry in Colorado, state-licensed cannabis businesses have every right to participate in the political process and provide financial support to candidates," says National Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Aaron Smith. "It's hard to believe anyone would take Mr. Hunt seriously, especially in light of the fact that he doesn't seem to be offended by politicians accepting donations from the alcohol industry."
Despite the backlash from cannabis-industry advocates and supporters, Hunt's anti-pot crusade hasn't slowed down, and he plans to take the fight to strengthen prohibition efforts against commercial legalization outside of Colorado. "I have a lot of concerns as well about the regulatory side of things," Hunt says. "What we want to see from legislatures is a full commitment to reduce this."