Pubdate: Mon, 01 Aug 2016
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2016 Los Angeles Times
Author: Patrick McGreevy


Coalition Will Use Big Portion of $2 Million to Target California's 
Ballot Measure to Legalize Cannabis.

SACRAMENTO - Facing well-financed campaigns to legalize recreational 
pot, a national coalition that includes former Rep. Patrick Kennedy 
has raised more than $2 million to fight initiatives in five states 
this year, including a November ballot measure in California.

The money is being put up by the political arm of Smart Approaches to 
Marijuana, an anti-legalization group founded by Kennedy; David Frum, 
a 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, SAM Action.

"If there is one thing we agree on with legalization advocates, it's 
that California is important," said Sabet, explaining why a large 
share of funding is going to the Golden State.

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% tax on retail 
sales of the drug.

The 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, 
Sabet said.

The contribution in California comes after the antilegalization 
campaign 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 a total of $6.7 million so 
far for the initiative qualification and efforts to win voter support.

In 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 Assn.

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.

A representative for Parker has denied that he has plans to invest in 
the marijuana industry.

Some of the money is going to Latino outreach coordinators based in 
Los Angeles with the expectation that the initiative could be 
vulnerable to opposition from that community if it votes in large 
numbers in the presidential contest.

Opponents declined to say who donated the money originally but, when 
asked, said it does not come from law enforcement sources or 
billionaire casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who has fought 
legalization proposals elsewhere and whose son died of a drug overdose.

"It is putting our children at risk and has exposed children from 
communities of color to more racial discrimination than before," said 
Kennedy, who represented part of Rhode Island in Congress, about the 
legalization movement. He is the son of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy 
and the nephew of the late President John F. Kennedy.

In newly released ballot arguments, opponents said the measure would 
lead to more drugged-driving accidents and pot shops near schools.

"Proposition 64 is an allout assault on underprivileged neighborhoods 
already reeling from alcohol and drug addiction problems," said the 
opposition argument, whose signers include Sen. Dianne Feinstein 
(D-Calif.) and Doug Villars, president of the California Assn. of 
Highway Patrolmen.

Supporters say marijuana is already available "nearly everywhere," 
but without protections for children and consumers.

"Proposition 64 finally creates a safe, legal and comprehensive 
system for adult use of marijuana while protecting our children," 
said the ballot argument, whose signers include Donald O. Lyman, 
former chief of chronic disease and injury control for the state 
Department of Public Health and Stephen Downing, former deputy chief 
for the Los Angeles Police Department.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom