Rand Paul's Denver fundraiser the 1st major-party event with new, legal marijuana business

Associated Press

Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul planned Tuesday to court donors from the new marijuana industry, making the Kentucky senator the first major-party presidential candidate to publicly seek support from the legal weed business.

Paul's fundraiser at the Cannabis Business Summit — tickets start at $2,700, the maximum donation allowed for the primary contest — comes as the marijuana industry approaches its first presidential campaign as a legal enterprise.

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Though legal weed business owners have been active political donors for years, presidential candidates have so far shied away from holding fundraisers made up entirely of marijuana-related entrepreneurs.

"It really speaks to how important this issue is and how far it's come," said Mason Tvert, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, a major sponsor of legalization campaigns in Colorado, Washington and other states.

"We're seeing officials at the local, state and now federal level recognize this is now a legitimate industry, just like any other legal industry in many facets," Tvert said.

Paul has embraced state marijuana experiments, while other candidates have either taken a wait-and-see approach or expressly vowed to challenge state legalization efforts.

Paul has joined Democrats in the Senate to sponsor a bill to end the federal prohibition on the use of medical marijuana. He also backs an overhaul of federal drug-sentencing guidelines, along with a measure to allow marijuana businesses to access banking services.

Asked last year whether marijuana should be legal, Paul said, "I haven't really taken a stand on that, but I'm against the federal government telling (states) they can't."

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