In what is an American electoral first, a Colorado organization fighting new taxes on legal marijuana has filed an unusual campaign finance report after a watchdog group complained that the group’s decision to give away free joints at a political rally could be considered a “campaign contribution.”
The group, No Over Taxation, handed out marijuana cigarettes at protests earlier this month in Boulder and Denver to combat possible taxes of 25 percent for pot production and retail, which state voters will consider next month. The group Colorado Ethics Watch then filed a complaint accusing the group of failing to disclose where it got the marijuana and how much it cost.
In response, No Over Taxation filed a formal report on Tuesday, October 15, listing the “alternative fair market price” of the marijuana given out at $1,250, an estimated provided by Denver attorney Robert Cory.
Peg Perl, staff counsel with the Colorado Ethics Watch, said that the case was unusual because it was the first time campaign disclosure was being applied to marijuana, which has only recently been legalized in Colorado and Washington state and will be available for retail sale next year.
Ethics Watch Director Luis Toro said in a news release, “Political contributions, whether in cash or in kind, reveal the amount and source of material support for a campaign. Voters have a right to know this information, and we are glad the No Over Taxation committee agreed to disclose this information without the need to go to a hearing.”
Colorado has always required campaign groups to disclose non-monetary contributions, and this case was unique simply because of the nature of the contribution, according to Ms. Perl. “If someone donated a cheese platter at a fundraiser, we would be raising the same questions,” she said.
While not all states require interest groups to disclose non-monetary items, Ms. Perl argued that it would still be in the groups’ best interests to file reports to keep voters informed.
“You might as well have it all disclosed and open to the public, because there is no danger of bumping up against a contribution limit,” she said.