Pueblo Anti-Pot Group Accused of Violating Campaign Finance Law, Won't Appear in Debate

After agreeing in August to participate in an October 18 debate, Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo has pulled out.

The anti-pot group is sponsoring Question 200 on the county ballot in November. Question 200 would effectively halt all commercial cultivation and the sale of recreational marijuana.

Hosted by the League of Women Voters, the debate was supposed to feature representatives of both sides of the ballot. Instead of a debate, the league says it will now host a discussion on the issue.

Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo's refusal to appear at the debate comes two weeks after it also decided against participating in a question-and-answer session hosted by the No on 200 group. Instead of taking part in the session, Citizens held its own Q&A at the same time in a church across town. 

The tension between the two groups is intensifying. The "No on 200" group is accusing Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo of violating campaign-finance law through direct-mail brochures. 
"I haven't found a person under the age of fifty who got one, so I think it was a targeted direct mailing throughout Pueblo County," says Jim Parco, the No on 200 spokesman and a dispensary owner. "I've seen all but one zip code included in this. There's no statement of who's paying for this advertising."

In any campaign, advertising or printed material that costs $1,000 or more to produce must have a disclaimer specifying who paid for it, according to the Federal Election Commission.

While it is impossible to know who created the mailers, Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo is the primary group leading the charge, which is why Parco named the group in a complaint filed with the Colorado Secretary of State's Office. Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo did not return requests for comment. 

"They are the registered issue committee championing Proposition 200," Parco says. "This is a message that is exclusively championing their cause. If we're going to file a complaint, they're the only ones we can file a complaint against. I have no idea who's putting this out."

Citizens for a Healthy Pueblo spoke with the Pueblo Chieftain and denied knowing anything about the mailings.
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Kate McKee Simmons interned at the National Catholic Reporter, was a reporter for the New York Post, and spent a brief stint in Israel learning international reporting before writing for Westword.