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Pot tax opponents greet Colorado governor

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KRISTEN WYATT | October 3, 2013 10:37 AM EST | AP


DENVER — DENVER (AP) — Colorado's proposed 25 percent tax on recreational marijuana attracted a few dozen protesters Wednesday to a pot-tax fundraiser featuring remarks from Gov. John Hickenlooper.

About 30 marijuana activists handed out free joints and marijuana concentrate to users over 21 and criticized the proposed tax rate as too steep. Retail sales are set to begin in Colorado on Jan. 1.

"We shouldn't overtax the industry before it has a chance to be born," said Larisa Bolivar of Denver, executive director of the campaign to oppose the tax measures.

Thirty to 40 people attended the $1,000-a-person fundraiser to raise money to advertise the tax.

Protesters had 600 joints, supplied by an anonymous donor. Denver police officers stood near the protesters and warned organizers that any violations would be cited. There were no incidents at the protesters' third pot giveaway.

The state Legislature approved the tax rates earlier this year, but voter approval is required for tax rates in Colorado. Pot taxes in Washington, the only other state with legal recreational pot, were set at 75 percent in a 2012 ballot measure.

In Colorado, marijuana tax opponents say Colorado's taxes, though lower than Washington's, are still too high and will keep pot smokers in the black market.

The protesters pointed out that beer sold at the fundraiser is taxed at a much lower rate than the proposed pot tax.

"It needs to be taxed like alcohol, not so high," protester Stephen Minks said.

Some attendees at the fundraiser shrugged off the protest. Many legalization activists and industry groups support the tax rate, as do public officials from both parties.

"It is one of the primary reasons people support marijuana, to get the tax revenue, to take this product out of the hands of cartels," said Brian Vicente, one of the authors of Colorado's marijuana amendment.

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Kristen Wyatt can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/APkristenwyatt