Marijuana activists and smokers converged on the Pearl Street Mall Monday, as a group opposing a marijuana sales tax ballot question gave out free joints to both protest the tax and to provide relief for flooding victims.
"We're going to give you some dankness for your dampness," Rob Corry, an attorney who helped organize the event, told the crowd gathered in front of the Boulder County Courthouse near 13th and Pearl streets.
The Boulder event was the second such recent free joint giveaway in the area. Organizers held a similar event in Denver earlier this month. But in addition to rallying opposition to a proposed tax on marijuana sales, Corry said the Boulder event was about helping those impacted by the flood.
"Wewant to bring some relief to hurting people in this community," Corry said. "We obviously had historic damage form this flood, and marijuana can be a calming, positive influence on people."
The line stretched from the courthouse and around the corner at 14th Street as people waited for organizers to start handing out the free joints at 11 a.m. As they waited, Corry led those in attendance in chants of "Free the weed!" and handed out fliers and signs protesting the tax. Corry said the group handed out about 1,000 free joints.
Chris Kohn and Christian McGee were two of the first people in the line.
"We were in the flood, now we're just enjoying happiness in Boulder, Colorado, baby," Kohn said. "Everything's OK."
Kohn said he hoped the event would help to educate people that marijuana was legal and safe.
"We're trying to show these cops out here that it's all OK," Kohn said.
City officials said event organizers had gotten the required permits. There also was a limit of one joint per person, and recipients had to be at least 21.
Kim Kobel, a spokeswoman with the Boulder Police Department, said the crowd was "cooperative," and no citations were issued. But she added the event took away from resources that could have been used to help with flood-related work.
"It's very inconvenient timing, because our resources at the police department are already stretched thin because of the flood emergency," Kobel said.
Denver police watched from a distance at the similar event there earlier this month, staying away even when a few people lit up their joints. Police officials later said that they didn't want to risk inciting a riot over a petty offense.
Proposition AA is a statewide ballot question that will ask voters in November to approve a 15 percent excise tax and an initial 10 percent state sales tax that could be raised up to 15 percent on marijuana sales. That would be in addition to existing state sales taxes.
Researchers believe the state could see as much as $130 million intax revenues annually from retail sales. The first $40 million collected is earmarked for public school construction. The rest would be split between local governments and the state general fund for enforcement and regulation.
Ben Gregory, of Boulder, said he came to Monday's event mainly for his free joint, but said he agreed with the message being spread.
"I personally buy marijuana, and the tax would bump it up closer to street prices, which isn't what we want as a community," he said.
The Committee for Responsible Regulation, a proponent of the tax, released a statement against the free giveaway.
"The No on AA campaign should be ashamed of itself for trying to capitalize upon a tragedy in order to advance their own political beliefs," Joe Megyesy, spokesperson for the Yes on Prop AA campaign, said in a statement. "We can debate the merits of a free joint giveaway, but I think we should all be in agreement that making light of people's suffering, as if a little marijuana can make it better, is inappropriate.
"The sad irony is that they are attempting to defeat a measure that will provide tens of millions of dollars annually for public school construction. This is money that could benefit some of the communities hit hard by the recent flooding."
While many people waiting in the line voiced their opinion one way or the
Shawn Roberts and Abbey Carr were visiting Boulder from Arizona. They said that with the flooding making it impossible to do much in the way of hiking and climbing, they decided instead to stand in line to get their free joints.
Roberts said marijuana laws in Arizona are much stricter, so he was surprised to see people walking in the streets with joints in their hands.
"I thought it was a joke to see how many stoners they could get to show up," he said.
But it was no joke, and sure enough Roberts walked away from the line with a joint of his own.
"It's crazy," he said.
Contact Camera Staff Writer Mitchell Byars at 303-473-1329 or firstname.lastname@example.org.