Marijuana: Pot tax critics represent small minority, says Amendment 64 co-author

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Last week, opponents of Proposition AA, the measure to establish tax rates for recreational marijuana, staged a rally at Civic Center Park at which adults 21 and over who attended were given free joints. In the days that followed, board members of Colorado NORML came out against Prop AA, too.

Does that mean support for the proposal is soft? Not in the view of attorney Brian Vicente, a marijuana advocate and co-author of Amendment 64.

"There isn't growing opposition to the tax measure," he writes via e-mail. "There is simply vocal opposition from a very limited group of individuals."

Vicente responded to our inquiry after the Civic Center rally but before the NORML board made its announcement. Since then, we've reached out to see if he wanted to add anything to his remarks; if and when we hear back from him, we'll update this post.

As we've reported, Proposition AA calls for a 15 percent excise tax on retail marijuana sales, plus a 10 percent state sales tax that can be increased to 15 percent if revenues fall short of covering costs. Given standard sales taxes and additional taxes applied by local governments, taxes on marijuana are likely to be in the 30-40 percent range.

This level seems excessive to Miguel Lopez, who organizes the annual 4/20 celebration and put together the "free joints" rally, and attorney Sean McAllister, a NORML board member. But Vicente, a co-chair of the fledgling Yes on Proposition AA campaign, sees them as reasonable.

"Sure, no one likes paying taxes," he acknowledges. "And given a straight choice between higher priced marijuana and lower priced marijuana, it is easy to say that you want lower prices. This is especially true if you are given a free joint as part of the pitch.

"But this isn't simply about whether individuals want or don't want to pay an extra 10 percent on marijuana above the 15 percent excise tax included in the language of Amendment 64," he continues. "This is a question of whether marijuana will or won't be available in retail stores for consumers to purchase safely. The federal government has said that they will not interfere with our regulated system if -- and only if -- we demonstrate that there are 'necessary resources' to enforce the regulations. That is what Proposition AA will provide. It will protect our regulated system from federal interference."

Referring again to the "free joints" rally, Vicente allows that "the fringe opponents to Proposition AA may feel good about their principled stance against any tax on marijuana, but they simply don't seem to understand that they may be throwing out the buds with the bong water.

"Of course, we have seen this act before and know that the sentiments only run so deep," he goes on. "Miguel Lopez was one of the most vocal opponents of Amendment 64, yet was one of the first people to celebrate the initiative becoming law on the steps of the Capitol. Maybe after Proposition AA passes, he will be one of the first people in line to pay for a regulated gram of marijuana."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Marijuana: Colorado NORML board opposes recreational pot tax measure."

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