Weed Wars

Dispatches from the California Marijuana Front

August 4, 2010
California marijuana initiative lacking potency in luring donors

Marijuana in California may be a $14 billion cash crop. But a ballot initiative to legalize recreational marijuana use for adults over 21 isn't proving to be a major lure to political donors.

According to the most recent campaign reports, the Tax Cannabis 2010 committee raised $426,689 - a relatively paltry sum for running a statewide political campaign - between Jan. 1 and June 30 and had just $62,000 in cash on hand at the end of June.

Richard Lee, the Oakland marijuana entrepreneur who largely bankrolled the signature drive to qualify Proposition 19, remains far and away the initiative's leading backer.

Lee's business enterprises -- including the Oaksterdam marijuana trade school and an Oakland dispensary -- spent $1.3 million to qualify the measure and contributed another $45,000 to the campaign. The list of mostly small donors includes the Berkeley Patients Group Inc. The Bay Area dispensary donated $5,000.

A second pro-legalization campaign organization, the Drug Policy Action Committee, raised $102,470 - including $100,000 from sex toys and pornography magnate Philip D. Harvey, the founder of the Adam & Eve on-line retailer.

So far, the ballot initiative is yet to inspire significant spending to defeat it.

Opponents of Proposition 19, Public Safety First, are being largely backed by law enforcement groups.

The "no" campaign raised $41,100 by the June 30 campaign filing deadline, led by $30,000 from the California Police Chiefs Association. The California Narcotics Association contributed another $20,500 this month.

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