Aug 25 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.
Legalizing the drug for recreational purposes would run
afoul of the federal government, which says that marijuana is a
The referendums in the three Western states, among the 17
that already allow marijuana for medical purposes, comes as some
states battle with the federal government over its raids of
medical marijuana dispensaries.
"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
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.
A representative for Lewis declined requests for comment.
Drug Policy Action, a group related to New York-based Drug
Policy Alliance, has given $600,000 this year to the Washington
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.
LEGAL AT 21
The ballot measures in all three states would legalize
marijuana for people 21 and older, impose state-level taxes on
the drug and allow sales of the drug at special pot stores.
A representative for the U.S. Justice Department had no
comment in response to multiple requests. The Obama
administration's Office of National Drug Control Policy has
argued that pot use is associated with addiction, respiratory
disease and cognitive impairment.
"One of the canards the other side puts out is that keeping
marijuana, even in small amounts, illegal is essentially
equivalent to a modern day prohibition for alcohol, which is a
total joke," said Cully Stimson, chief of staff for the
conservative Heritage Foundation, which opposes legalization.
Stimson said having only a couple drinks a day is healthy.
"With marijuana use, the purpose is to get high," he said.
Despite such arguments, opponents 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.
(Editing by Vicki Allen)