Rand Paul Just Broached an Untapped Campaign Donor Source

July 2nd 2015

Alex Mierjeski

On Tuesday, Kentucky Sen. and 2016 presidential hopeful Rand Paul (R) made history when he raised campaign funds speaking at the National Cannabis Industry Association's Cannabis Business Summit in Denver, making him the first serious presidential candidate to tap the marijuana industry for political contributions, according to reports.

Before Paul spoke at a rally held at a local restaurant, he held a private fundraiser where the minimum donation required for attendance was $2,700, according to the Denver Post. The fundraiser was not explicitly tied to the NCIA's summit, but Paul also received $5,000 from the group's political action committee.

"Never before has a major-party presidential candidate held a reception at a cannabis industry event, and NCIA is proud to host Senator Paul," the group said in a promotional email obtained by Yahoo News. According to that email, in addition to the $2,700 "attendee" donor minimum, "sponsors" could give $5,400 to attend, and "hosts" could give $10,400. Although Paul's campaign did not release fundraising amounts, the Associated Press reported that around 40 people attended the closed-door event, making six-figure proceeds a feasible outcome.

"This is a historical moment, that our industry is now working together with a presidential candidate," Tripp Keber, who owns the cannabis-infused potables and edibles company Dixie Elixirs, told the AP.

As the Denver Post noted, Paul is well-positioned to both initiate into the world of political donations major players in the pot industry and also enjoy a likely majority of their contributions. Paul has long been a vocal opponent of ending what he often calls the failed policies of the war on drugs, which he says have directly contributed to drastic racial disparities in prisons. In March Paul joined Sens. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to introduce legislation that would repeal the federal ban on medical marijuana, widening access for patients and making banking and business practices easier for both medical and recreational businesses.

Asked after Tuesday's fundraiser how he would have voted in Colorado's recreational marijuana measure, Paul said, "I think I see it just more from a federal perspective."

"And I think the federal government ought to stay out," he continued.