Marijuana: Yes on Proposition AA tax proposal winning handily in polls

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With the election only days away, voters have been inundated with robocalls and the like about education-oriented Amendment 66 and more. But the hype for marijuana tax Proposition AA has been far quieter, with little activity for weeks. And even opponents, who grabbed September headlines with joint giveaway protests, haven't made much noise of late. Is that because those on both sides expect it to win? A Yes on Prop AA rep doesn't put it quite that way, but he notes that polling shows the measure winning handily.

"We have a good lead in our polling," says Yes on Prop AA spokesman Joe Megyesy. "We've been holding a steady lead, with around 60 percent."

Indeed, October 8-9 data provided by Megyesy (see the document in its entirety below) shows that among all voters, 60 percent say they will definitely or probably cast their ballot in favor of Proposition AA, which calls for 15 percent excise tax on marijuana sales and a 10 percent state sales tax that can be increased to 15 percent without an additional vote. That's opposed to 25 percent who say they'll vote no.

Does that mean the group backing Proposition AA has stopped campaigning? No: A campaign surrogate debated attorney Rob Corry, the man behind the joint giveaways, as part of a recent Denver Post webcast, and some op-eds and letters to the editor are still in the pipeline. As such, Megyesy says, "we're still trying to engage people up until the last minute." But the most visible outreach methods began winding down during the middle of the month.

"We structured the campaign to reach voters before the mail-in ballots dropped," he says. "We wanted to get out there and visit with editorial boards and civic and political groups before October 15, so voters could make an informed decision when they got their ballots."

The ed board visits certainly paid off: Proposition AA has been endorsed by most major newspapers in the state, including the Post, the Colorado Springs Gazette, the Fort Collins Coloradoan, the Pueblo Chieftain, the Aspen Times and the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. Moreover, the campaign has lined up endorsements from prominent politicians and advocates, many of whom opposed Amendment 64, which legalized adults 21 and over to use and possess small amounts of cannabis. We've included the photos and comments of several prominent backers below.

Are there any scenarios under which Prop AA could still lose? Well, off-year elections tend to attract lower participation in general, with the largest group typically taking part being older voters who may oppose marijuana legalization in general. But Megyesy isn't too worried. He thinks the turnout may be better than anticipated due to other contentious issues on the ballot, including Amendment 66, local fracking bans and school board races. And even if fewer people participate, the Prop AA polling numbers show seniors generally support the measure, too.

"I think most people have the idea that Amendment 64 is already here and marijuana is legal, but now it's a matter of how we're dealing with it," Megyesy allows. "So I think even folks who disagree with Amendment 64 will still vote for Proposition AA, because they want to make sure there's enough money to regulate marijuana properly."

He adds that national activist Grover Norquist's recent statement that voting to raise taxes on pot wouldn't violate a no-tax pledge, since prohibition is the ultimate tax, could reassure some conservative voters who are on the fence.

Given all that, Megyesy says, "we feel pretty comfortable" that Proposition AA will pass.

Here are some endorsement statements from Proposition AA supporters.

"It's important that Coloradans pass Proposition AA to help ensure communities have the funds needed to pay for a robust and responsible regulation of marijuana. Colorado communities would also benefit from the increased funding for public school construction." -- Governor John Hickenlooper "These taxes will provide funding for construction on Colorado's public schools, as the voters intended. I also see no other way to ensure the state recovers the significant expense of responsibly regulating this new industry and receives funding for the inevitable public health, education, and safety costs. For these reasons, I encourage the citizens of Colorado to pass an additional sales tax and new excise tax." -- Attorney General John Suthers Continue for more Proposition AA endorsements, as well as the polling data. "After actively supporting legislation in the 2013 session of the General Assembly that upheld both the intent of Amendment 64 for maximum local control, as well as the ability to cover costs related to administration and enforcement of retail marijuana, CML is supporting Proposition AA." -- Kevin Bommer, deputy director of the Colorado Municipal League "The passage of Prop AA is absolutely vital to ensure we have the funds necessary to provide a comprehensive enforcement of the new marijuana industry. Marijuana is still illegal in every other state but one, and law enforcement must be given the necessary resources to make certain marijuana legally produced in Colorado stays in Colorado." -- Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey "With Proposition AA we have an historic opportunity to prove that marijuana can be responsibly regulated and even be a force for good in our community. The passage of Proposition AA will fulfill a commitment made to 55 percent of Colorado voters who supported Amendment 64 last year with the understanding that tax revenue would be generated not only for the regulation of the new marijuana industry, but also for other critical government services such as the construction of public schools." -- Brian Vicente, Amendment 64 co-author and chair of the Committee for Responsible Regulation "In order to preserve Colorado's stellar brand and reputation the new commercial marijuana industry must be properly regulated. We have an opportunity in November to put in place a taxing structure that will directly fund the costs associated with marijuana, thereby protecting other crucial state-spending priorities. Like or dislike what Amendment 64 has brought to Colorado -- supporting Proposition AA is the right choice." -- Tamra Ward, CEO of Colorado Concern Continue for more Proposition AA endorsements, as well as the polling data. "This (Proposition AA) would allow us to take care of a lot more public school needs around the state, and increase the amount of funding we are able to work with." -- Ted Hughes, director of capital construction assistance for the Colorado Department of Education, as quoted in the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent "Proposition AA is really Part II of Amendment 64, which did not set up the taxing mechanism for legalized marijuana in Colorado. The funds generated by Proposition AA are essential to the proper regulation and enforcement of the new retail marijuana industry." -- Cathy Garcia, president and CEO of Action 22, an organization representing 22 counties in Southern Colorado "Protecting the public safety became a paramount concern to me when Colorado voters passed Amendment 64. Proposition AA protects the public safety by keeping marijuana out of the hands of children and also keeps a promise to voters that the state would responsibly regulate marijuana. I support Proposition AA because it allows the state to oversee marijuana regulation without taking money from high priority areas like education, transportation and public safety. The tax rate set in Proposition AA also ensures that the black market and cartel-like behavior is largely eliminated." -- Representative Dan Pabon

Here's the polling data on Proposition AA:

Proposition AA Poll Results October 8-9, 2013.pdf

Send your story tips to the author, Michael Roberts.

More from our Marijuana archive circa September 23: "Photos: Free joint giveaway on Pearl Street Mall a mellow event."

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