A national coalition that includes former Rep. Patrick Kennedy has raised more than $2 million to fight initiatives to legalize recreational marijuana in five states this year, including a November ballot measure in California, the Los Angeles Times reports. The money is being put up by the political arm of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group founded by Kennedy; David Frum, senior editor of the Atlantic; and Kevin Sabet, a former drug policy advisor to the Obama administration. The opposition campaign to California’s Proposition 64 will eventually get a large amount of the money because its vote affects so many people and is likely to have the biggest influence on other states considering similar proposals, said Sabet, president of the group, called SAM Action. “If there is one thing we agree on with legalization advocates, it’s that California is important.”
If approved by voters Nov. 8, the ballot measure would allow adults 21 and older to possess, transport and use up to an ounce of cannabis for recreational purposes and would also impose a 15 percent tax on retail sales of the drug. Opponents also plan to fund battles against cannabis legalization initiatives on the November ballots in Nevada, Massachusetts and Maine, in addition to Arizona, where signatures have been turned in. The contribution to the opposition campaign in California comes after it has fallen far behind its opponents in fundraising. Former Facebook President Sean Parker has put $2.5 million into the legalization campaign, which has raised $6.7 million so far. By comparison, the opposition’s Coalition for Responsible Drug Policies has raised about $125,000 from groups including the Assn. for Los Angeles Deputy Sheriffs State PAC and the Los Angeles County Professional Peace Officers Association. Sabet said opponents don’t expect to be able to match the money raised by proponents because the backers have a financial incentive to invest in legalization. “If legalization wins, it creates an environment where a small number of people are going to get rich,” Sabet said.