(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.