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August 25, 2012

Following the money in ballot contests over marijuana legalization

This new Reuters article, headlined "Legal marijuana backers raise $3 million in two US states," reports on the state of the ballot race (and the place of money in the race) concerning marijuana legalization. Here are excerpts from the piece:

Campaigns to become the first U.S. states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado have raised $3 million ahead of a November vote, far outpacing the opposition.

Proponents of pot legalization in Washington state have raised nearly $2 million since the initiative qualified for the ballot in January, and about $1 million in Colorado since its measure earned a place on the ballot the following month, according to the most recent state campaign figures.

In Oregon, where a voter referendum qualified in July, the legalization campaign reported less than $1,000 in contributions. All three state measures go on the ballot in November, when Americans vote for president and other offices.

With their war chests, backers of legalization drives in Washington state and Colorado have already bought television ads in a bid to convince voters, especially those who have never smoked pot, of merits of legalizing and taxing it....

"If one of these initiatives wins, it will really be a breakthrough," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which seeks alternatives to the current U.S. policy to combat drug use. "And in the end, just as there has been a federal-state conflict involving medical marijuana, we anticipate there will be similar conflicts when states begin to legally regulate marijuana like alcohol," he said. "But the only way we think change can happen is through this process."

Polls indicate support in Colorado and Washington for legalizing pot. A July poll by Survey USA of 630 registered voters in Washington state said 55 percent backed the marijuana legalization ballot measure. The margin of error was 4 percent. Rasmussen Reports said its June poll of likely Colorado voters showed 61 percent supported legalizing and regulating pot. The survey had 500 respondents and a margin of 4.5 percent.

Billionaire Peter Lewis, the Ohio-based chairman of Progressive Insurance who helped finance successful state-level campaigns for medical marijuana, has emerged as the Washington state legalization measure's largest supporter with total contributions this year of $875,000.... Drug Policy Action, a group related to New York-based Drug Policy Alliance, has given $600,000 this year to the Washington legalization campaign.

The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project has given the two registered groups behind the Colorado campaign most of their roughly $1 million in funds, state records show. Lists of donors to Marijuana Policy Project and Drug Policy Action are not publicly available....

[O]pponents of legalization have so far fallen short in fundraising. State campaign figures show that Smart Colorado has raised the most of any anti-legalization group, but its 2012 total stands at less than $40,000.

Holcomb said her pro-legalization group bought more than $1 million in TV air time in Washington state this month. In Colorado, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol spent $800,000 for fall season television ads, said Mason Tvert, co-director of the group.

August 25, 2012 at 10:02 PM | Permalink

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yOU SAY: "[O]pponents of legalization have so far fallen short in fundraising. State campaign figures show that Smart Colorado has raised the most of any anti-legalization group, but its 2012 total stands at less than $40,000."

This NOT verdad-NOT TRE . I and my friends [AND AMIGO BILL OTIS] and famile [my English not good]give ONE MILLION DOLLARS to keep marijana ILLEGAL. must stay illegal to support my business, family, friends. TENGO MUCHAS HACIENTDAS, MUCHAS MUJERES, MUCHAS COSAS.

Posted by: Pablo Miranda Escobar | Aug 26, 2012 2:12:10 AM

Pablo, whoever he is, has a definite point. I'm surprised the cartel folks are not funneling millions (through proxies) into the anti-legalization efforts. They do make untold billions from the illegal production and sale of marijuana and no doubt use the money to by "haciendas, muchas mujeres, and muchas cosas." I have no comment on Pablo's outrageous claim that he and Bill Otis are joined at the hip on the issue.

Posted by: onlooker | Aug 26, 2012 8:53:25 PM

onlooker --

He could just as well say that I'm joined at the hip with Barack Obama, George Bush, Bill Clinton and every President who has taken a position on the issue; with Congress, which passed the CSA and has declined to change it in 40 years; with Justices Stevens, Ginsburg, Kennedy, Scalia, and the other Justices in the Supreme Court majority that wrote Gonzales v. Raich; and with the majority of the American people as shown in the average of the four most recent national polls on the legalization question (see http://www.pollingreport.com/drugs.htm).

With that for company, I'm not really too worried about whatever "Mr. Escobar" has to say.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 26, 2012 10:05:18 PM

Bill Otis, What I could never figure out is why Congress (and "the people")--legalize the production, manufacture and use of cigarettes, which have killed about one billion persons in the world (I actually read that somewhere about a month ago)--and alcohol, which had directly or indirectly killed millions---while Congress and "the people" insist that marijuana --which to the best of my knowledge has killed maybe 100 persons directly or indirectly--be illegal---Not to mention that the thousands of persons imprisoned in the U.S. and hundreds of billions that flow to Pablo and his ilk--and the hundreds of millions we spend on the prison-industrial complex.

What am I missing about this?

Can you help me with this?

And please don't tell me to take it up with Congress--that's the point of my question--I concede "the people" and Congress love it this way. My question is why??

Posted by: not a lawyer | Aug 26, 2012 11:14:18 PM

not a lawyer --

"And please don't tell me to take it up with Congress--that's the point of my question--I concede "the people" and Congress love it this way. My question is why??"

I must renew my advice that you take it up with Congress, since Congress makes the law. Blogs don't.

Still, to answer your question directly: That some dangerous substances are legally available hardly means that it's a good idea to make yet more dangerous substances similarly available. To the contrary, it is a reason to be more circumspect, not more carefree, in adding to the list.

P.S. The number of persons serving any significant prison time for simple possession of personal use quantities of pot is miniscule. And their plight is in their own hands to remedy: It's no big secret that pot is illegal, so, until the law changes, just put down the joint. It's not that hard.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Aug 27, 2012 9:35:31 AM

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