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

The first pro-marijuana TV ad for Washington's fall election started airing this month. (photo: KATU News)
The first pro-marijuana TV ad for Washington's fall election started airing this month. (photo: KATU News)


Colorado, Washington on Track to Legalize Marijuana

By Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters

26 August 12

 

ampaigns 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 dangerous narcotic.

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 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.

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 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.

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.


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+4 # julileegal 2012-08-26 11:26
If legalization of it wins in those two states, be prepared for an influx of new people to move into the areas.
 
 
+6 # James Smith 2012-08-26 11:41
What strikes me as odd is that Colorado is usually considered a conservative state. Maybe the thought of all those tax dollars has the neo-con greed causing them to discard their principles. This would hardly be the first time they have done that for cash.
 
 
+15 # James Marcus 2012-08-26 11:43
Legalization of MJ....spells 'The End' of all drug cartels.
Why?
Supply will flourish. Price will crash, ending profit margins maintained ONLY by 'illegality' . Many other folks doing other substances will then shift to what is legal, cheap and available, crashing the demand, and profits, in those substances, as well.
Hallelujah!!
But, will the bribe-accepting politicians allow it?
 
 
+18 # M. de la Souche 2012-08-26 13:28
//"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.//

So true because most nights, bars are full of people drinking for their health...
 
 
+9 # werker 2012-08-26 16:21
Yeah if two are good, six must be better! Seriously, people out on the road after drinking have ruined a lot of other people's health!
 
 
+5 # Organizer 2012-08-26 15:07
Well put M!
 
 
+3 # dkonstruction 2012-08-27 08:33
While i certainly support marijuana legalization (both for medical and recreational use) and do not believe that the government should be regulating the behavior of consenting adults i think we also need to be critical of waging "progressive" campaigns with "outside money" or are we simply opposed to this when it is done by conservative republicans? I do not see why people from New York (my home state) or money from an "ohio-based" billionaire should be "telling" (since money is now "speech") those in Washington state or Colorado what they should be doing or what types of laws they should be passing...doesn 't mean they should not be free to "voice" their oppinions but we can't have it both ways and criticize Citizens United on the one hand (and the whole "money is speech" notion as a whole) and then support "outside money" when it is for a cause we support (just as i find it hypocritical to criticize Romney for his money when dems/progressiv es never made this an issue about John Kerry. We should at least be consistant in our arguments and positions.

That having been said i do very much hope these initiatives pass as part of what should be an overall effort to fight against the so-called "war on drugs" which has simply been a cover for the ongoing war against poor people and people of color
 
 
+1 # CandH 2012-08-27 21:02
Ask California what has happened since it legalized it. Why, the DOJ, DEA, ICE and the FBI all have profited NICELY, thank you. How? It's a tag team where the DOJ says, no no, it's still Schedule I Federally, and so here comes the cavalry of FBI setups, DEA & ICE tight ends to swoop in, shut-em down, shut-em up, and extort all proceeds accordingly. Just wait WA and CO. Their placing their bets on the for-profit prison systems in those states, lining/beefing the enforcement ducks up as we speak. Listening/watch ing/waiting with whom to target for such militarized "shock and awe" antics. Tah-dah, casino/mob-styl e capitalism wins again!
 

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