DENVER — 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.
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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