Marijuana Haters Say They Have Millions to Spend Against Legalization Effort

Millions of dollars are going into the fight over California marijuana legalization.
Millions of dollars are going into the fight over California marijuana legalization.
Gustavo Turner/L.A. Weekly

If you looked at the cash contributions of the campaigns for and against marijuana legalization in California, you could reasonably conclude that the pro-pot contingent is winning big.

Proposition 64 backers have raised nearly $9.3 million in their efforts to make recreational weed legal for those 21 and older, according to California Secretary of State records. Those against the initiative, also known as the Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA), have raised only $159,150.

But there's a third horse in this race. The antipot group Smart Approaches to Marijuana says its political arm, SAM Action, has raised more than $2 million to fight legalization in California and elsewhere this election season.

"The ballot initiatives in California, Arizona, Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine usher in massive commercialization of kid-friendly marijuana products," said SAM co-founder Kevin Sabet. "They go way beyond just legalization for adults' personal use."

We asked how much of the cash would be spent in California. "We don't know yet," Sabet said.

"The multimillion dollar commitment represents the single largest fundraising amount ever dedicated to fighting the legalization of nonmedical marijuana via ballot initiative," according to a SAM Action statement.

Even if the lion's share of that money is spent in the Golden State, the No on 64 contingent would have an uphill battle against the law's backers, which include Holmby Hills tech billionaire Sean Parker.

The yes side expects to raise at least $12 million, which would be used to buy television ads, possibly even in Spanish, an AUMA organizer told us previously.

A spokesman for the Yes on 64 campaign declined to comment about SAM's fundraising against the initiative until "they report actual money and where it’s coming from."

Indeed, if the money goes directly to the no campaign, it would have to be reported to the secretary of state.

SAM Action said in a statement that all its cash has come from individual contributors, and that "none of this money was donated by corporations, corporate interest groups or people acting on their behalf."

Sabet adds that he is particularly concerned that AUMA could allow advertising of marijuana products on TV.

"These proposed initiatives do things like legalize marijuana advertising on television and industrial production and marketing of pot candies like gummy bears and lollipops," he said. "It's a money grab by a massive new addictive industry."


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