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Most money for pot initiative comes from marijuana industry


The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol has claimed that money for its ballot measure to legalize recreational pot wasn’t just coming from weed-related businesses.

But, according to campaign finance reports, the strong majority of money funding the pot initiative is coming from within the marijuana industry, which stands to benefit if the ballot measure passes.

At a press conference announcing that the pot initiative had turned in nearly 260,000 signatures to get on the November ballot, pot legalization campaign chair J.P. Holyoak said the group had a “broad coalition of contributors.”

“We’ve actually seen quite a bit from the construction industry, which will then be providing services, the contractors and those types of trades, as well as the agricultural industry is providing support to us. … We’ve got hotels, bed and breakfasts and tourism that’s supporting us,” Holyoak said.

The Marijuana Policy Project and its foundation, based in Washington, D.C., have contributed the most – about $840,000 of $2.2 million – to the Arizona initiative.

Other major donors include Arizona Grassroots Dispensary, which gave $135,000 so far this election cycle; Monarch, a Scottsdale dispensary, which gave $97,500; Urban Greenhouse, a Phoenix dispensary, which donated $85,000; Sixth Street Enterprises, which runs a dispensary, gave $80,000; The Holistic Center, a dispensary, gave $80,000.

Steve White, an attorney at White Berberian, a Tempe law firm that lists medical marijuana business law as one of its specialties, was the largest individual donor to the pot initiative, at $54,999.

Absent from campaign finance filings: Any major donations from the construction or tourism industries. (Aside from medical marijuana businesses, no other agriculture-related businesses appear to have donated, either.)

When the Arizona Capitol Times asked the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol if it could point out any donations coming from construction, tourism or agriculture, the campaign sent a statement from Holyoak.

“I have talked to numerous people in the construction and tourism industry who told me they supported the initiative. I thought they meant the support included financial support. I will be making personal calls to ensure they put their money where their mouths are,” Holyoak said.

The initiative, known as the Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act, would decriminalize marijuana possession up to 1 ounce for people over age 21. It would tax marijuana sales at recreational dispensaries at 15 percent, and the industry would be overseen by an agency called the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry strongly opposes the measure, drawing on its potential implications for employers. Marijuana legalization would be a “workplace nightmare for Arizona employers,” the chamber said in a blog post.

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