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Marijuana initiative tops campaign fundraising in 2015


(Note: This story comes from the Arizona Center for Investigative Reporting through a Creative Commons license. AZCIR is a nonprofit investigative newsroom.)

About $9.7 million poured into state-level political campaigns in 2015, but a ballot measure aimed at legalizing marijuana use for adults accounted for almost $1.1 million of that figure, outraising every other campaign committee during the non-election year.

Almost half of the contributions going to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — roughly $414,000 — came from the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project, a nationally-focused marijuana law reform organization. Several local medical marijuana dispensaries account for another large portion of the campaign’s funds. Another committee called Arizonans for Responsible Legalization, which also helped push the measure in mid-2015, raised about $183,000, and transferred a portion to the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, bringing the total contributions going toward the measure to nearly $1.2 million.

The pro-pot warchest amassed by the initiative’s backers signals what will likely be a highly publicized issue as the November election nears.

The state requires 150,642 signatures for a ballot initiative, but the campaign plans to overshoot that number by about 50 percent, the committee’s spokesman Barrett Marson said. So far the group has gathered about 180,000 signatures.

“The first phase is all about ensuring ballot access,” Marson said. “It is an expensive venture to qualify for the ballot.”

Marson said it’s not clear yet how much money will be spent on publicizing the ballot measure, or what such an effort will look like.

A competing marijuana legalization ballot measure committee, the Campaign to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana, is pushing a measure with less regulation than the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol for who can grow marijuana. The competing effort has only raised about $12,000.

Arizonans for Responsible Drug Policy, which will advocate against passing any legalization campaign, has so far raised about $90,000. Randy Kendrick, the wife of Arizona Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association, Sun State Builders and it’s CEO Jim Chamberlain account for more than half of the group’s funding. The Just Vote No Arizona campaign opposing the ballot measure has raised $839, which came entirely from the Gordon C. James Public Relations firm.

In 2010, Arizona narrowly passed an initiative legalizing marijuana for medical purposes. The campaign pushing for the measure spent roughly $800,000 on the effort. It passed by 4,340 votes — just three-tenths of one percent. The opposition spent about $30,000.


  1. As a retired R.N. I now write and do freelance research. This may seem a scary thing to make Marijuana legal buy many European countries have had it legal for a long, long time without incident. It will benefit our country in many ways:

    1. If it is legal it will not be mixed with ‘bad’ drugs unaware to the buyer. Thus saving lives.
    2. It is very effective in the treatment many illnesses. For example, nausea from chemotherapy, or pain management.
    3. This classification of a “minor” drug will not longer send young people to prison for life, because of the ‘Pipeline to Prison’ legislation. Marijuana is not Herion, or murder.
    4. In the states that legalized recreational marijuana the states have increased their income from taxes that help to subsidize other programs (health awareness, education, etc.) that are good and flexible for each individual state.

    Senator Bernie Sanders plans to decriminalize this minor drug nationwide. He does not write plans without first first investigating all aspects of it – both pros and con. He has never written a plan that does not benefit the nation as a whole, or voted yes on a bad plan. He voted NO of Nafta, WTO, the final writing of Pipeline to Prison, the deregulation of Wall Street, and opposes TPP as examples. He does, however, endorse a responsible decriminalization of marijuana.

  2. Preventing other Arizonans from smoking marijuana at the point of a gun is deeply immoral. Most of us are unwilling to send SWAT teams into family homes, lock humans in cages, and enrich drug cartels all in the hopes that a War on Drugs that has failed for decades will improbably turn out to be successful in the end. The National Institute of Health now indicates (along with NIDA) that this plant kills cancer. When the prohibition of marijuana began Harry Anslinger, our first drug czar, testified before congress that 100,000 people here had used marijuana. Recently, it was reported that 100,000,000 people in the US, including our last three presidents have used marijuana. We, as US taxpayers, paid over one and a half TRILLION dollars to have this done to us. Rather than to decrease its use, our laws to prohibit the use of marijuana have resulted in a THOUSANDFOLD increase in its use. During this time marijuana became our nation’s number one cash crop surpassing both wheat and corn combined. A lot of people who make money off of victimizing Arizonans stand to go out of business, which they well should. Someone has to ask for ID’s! Legalize and regulate in 2016!

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