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Major Donors Spark Marijuana Ballot Measure

Sonora, CA – A nonprofit nonpartisan research group tracking political donations states the bulk of $3.3 million raised to promote a recreational marijuana initiative in California came from only a few donors.

According to MapLight.org, most of a small group of supporters backing the Adult Use of Marijuana Act have donated at least $250,000 apiece to help bring it to voters this fall.

Its sponsoring group, Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana While Protecting Children, announced yesterday that it had gathered enough signatures to qualify for the November ballot.

As previously reported here, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom is among those who have come out in support of the measure. It would allow anyone over the age of 21 to possess up to an ounce of marijuana and grow as many as six plants. Controls on its use include that it would remain illegal in public places and while driving. Commercial marijuana would be under state control “from seed to sale” with local jurisdictions able to impose local laws and provide further restrictions on nonmedical marijuana businesses. Purchases of marijuana products would carry a 15 percent tax, part of which would go towards enforcement costs.

MapLight.org reports that nearly a third of the funding came from donations exceeding $1 million made by Sean White, founder of the music file-sharing service Napster and former Facebook president.

Backers Include Entrepreneurs, Tycoons’ Heirs  

Donations of $750,000 from two groups; Californians for Sensible Reform and New Approach Political Action Committee. The former is facilitated by Ghost Management Group LLC, operator of the website and mobile app weedmaps, which provides marijuana dispensary and doctor details and locations. New Approach Political Action Committee was initiated by the family of the late billionaire Peter Lewis, the former chairman of Progressive Insurance, who, before he passed away last year was reported to have given tens of millions since the 1980s to help legalize medical marijuana. Other contributors include the Drug Policy Alliance’s political action arm, which bills itself as a leader promoting alternatives to the war on drugs and gave $500,000; and Hyatt heir Nicholas Pritzker, who kicked in $250,000.

While the hefty financial backing might even be historic for a marijuana-related initiative, MapLight.org reports with irony that Citizens Against Legalizing Marijuana (CALM), an all-volunteer grassroots political action committee known for fighting pro-marijuana initiatives, has so far in this election cycle raised less than $14,000 through numerous small donations.

Of course, with some months to come before the November ballot, potential supporters both pro and against marijuana measures that may qualify have time, if they so choose, to whip out their checkbooks ahead of casting votes.