DENVER- As political stunts go, Denver was treated to something special on Monday.
At a kickoff for their campaign against taxes on the drug, pro-marijuana activists handed out free joints to more than 1,000 people at Denver's Civic Center Park.
"Let's tax marijuana like alcohol," said pro-pot lawyer Rob Corry, who led the launch of the campaign against Colorado's proposition AA. "That is what Amendment 64 intended to do."
Coming from Corry, his opponents say that message is disingenuous.
Corry promotes that he helped to craft and pass last year's Amendment 64, which envisioned a 15 percent excise tax on wholesale marijuana.
That's a heavier tax than the state imposes on alcohol.
"It is the government that is being disingenuous and they're performing a bait and switch misleading the Colorado voters," said Corry.
He's upset that Colorado lawmakers tacked on a special sales tax in addition to the excise tax.
Under Prop AA, the sales tax would be set at 10 percent and lawmakers would have the ability to lower or raise the rate to a maximum of 15 percent.
"It adds up to 52.62 percent tax rate on marijuana in Denver," said Corry, who included a local Denver tax question in his equation.
Denver is asking voters to approve a 3.5 percent sales tax on pot that can be raised to a maximum of 15 percent.
All of the aforementioned taxes would be charged in addition to the standard sales tax on retail purchases.
"Money to go to the schools, I was all for that, but we just don't want to be taxed so crazy that we can't afford to buy it," said Chrissy Robinson of Denver, who received one of the free joints at the event.
Supporters of the tax question argue that the additional sales taxes are needed to pay for regulation of the drug, especially when you consider that Amendment 64 earmarked the first $40 million of the excise tax for school construction and improvements.
State forecasters predict the excise tax will raise only $27.5 million in its first year, leaving no additional funds for the state to spend on enforcement.
Critics of Corry also balked at the free marijuana giveaway.
"I think it makes you just stop and say 'is this what we voted for?' I mean is this what we want for our city and state," said Diane Carlson of the group SMART Colorado. "Is this the reputation we want to send to the world?"
Many pro-pot activists are supporting Prop AA as part of the official "yes" campaign.
The campaign released a statement, reading "the opposition's cavalier approach fails to meet the standards of a well-funded regulatory structure as detailed by the US Department of Justice."
That's a not-to-subtle message that they believe Corry is likely to draw unwanted negative attention from the federal government, which is closely monitoring Colorado's every move.
If Colorado's experiment with legalizing pot goes badly, pro-pot activists fear a setback to their efforts to legalize their drug in other parts of the country.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)