Backers of an effort to legalize adult-use marijuana have raised abundantly more funds than their opposition, and are burning money faster than a skinny joint.
Smart and Safe Arizona took in roughly $1.1 million this quarter, bringing its total to $2.7 million, though it has only $80,000 left after spending heavily on consultants and signature gathering.
The weed campaign is leaning heavily on the dispensaries for contributions, with most of its money coming from the two biggest chains – Harvest and CuraLeaf. Harvest kicked in $245,000 in cash or in-kind contributions, and CuraLeaf contributed $200,000. Cresco Labs, another dispensary, gave the PAC $300,000 as well.
Harvest has now outspent all other contributors, and has pumped more than $1 million into the legalization campaign. Of course, dispensaries stand to see a massive financial benefit if legalization passes, as they will have first-dibs on recreational licenses. And although Smart and Safe has burned through most of its income, it still has more cash on hand than the opposition group that formed last month.
Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, which opposes legalizing recreational use of marijuana and previously refused to disclose who its backers are, has brought in only $50,025.
It has two backers – one from an individual contributor who gave $25 and the rest from the Center for Arizona Policy, which contributed $50,000.
Smart and Safe spent $100,000 on signature gathering in March – more than its opposition PAC was able to raise overall.
The competition still has months to gain traction, and once the ballot is set donors will know how many initiatives will be around to try to defeat, but the 2020 marijuana legalization effort has taken a much different shape than the last attempt in 2016.
The Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, or on the ballot known as Proposition 205 raised $6.5 million during its campaign, barely outraising the opposition with $6.4 million. The opposition in 2016 was spearheaded in part by Yavapai County Attorney Sheila Polk, Gov. Doug Ducey, who Polk thanked after defeating the proposition, and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, among others.
The chamber won’t take an official stance on Smart & Safe even after pouring $1.5 million into the opposition in 2016, and some of the other big contributors of the anti campaign are either dead or in jail.
Bruce Halle, the former owner of Discount Tire, contributed roughly $1 million in opposition in 2016, but he has since passed away. Insys Therapeutics contributed $500,000 and its founder is now serving five years in prison for his role in contributing to the national opioid crisis.
Smart and Safe has been dubbed the likely only initiative to make it onto the ballot given the COVID-19 crisis, but several other campaigns, including marijuana, are tied up in twin battles in state and federal court to be able to collect signatures online like candidates do.
Three of those initiatives raised more than $1 million in the first quarter.
Arizonans for Second Chances, Rehabilitation, and Public Safety, the criminal justice initiative, brought in $1.2 million, though it burned through more than half of that.
The Second Chances initiative, which aims to increase public safety and reduce recidivism, received all of its cash contributions from the same group, a liberal dark-money group from San Francisco called Tides, which has ties to billionaire George Soros.
Arizonans for Fair Elections, which aims to overhaul the state’s election laws – making it easier to vote and limit spending from corporations – brought in nearly $2 million, almost all of it coming from the Arizona Advocacy Network.
The PAC spent nearly all of that money, however, leaving it with just more than $50,000 at the end of March.
Arizonans Fed Up with Failing Healthcare already had half-a-million dollars to start, and brought in another $1.2 million this quarter. But it spent nearly every penny it had.
All of its money came from a California group: Service Employees International Union United Healthcare Workers West. SEIU’s former president, Andy Stern, has strong ties to Soros as well. Both the health care and election initiatives are caught up in a federal legal battle over collecting signatures online. The judge dismissed the case on April 17, but the groups pushing the initiatives are appealing to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Then there’s Outlaw Dirty Money, which raised roughly $500,000 in the first quarter, but recently “suspended” the campaign as courts consider challenges to initiative signature-gathering laws
The two education initiatives are trailing the pack in terms of raising money.
Invest in Education raised $230,000 this quarter, and has $170,000 remaining as of the end of March, and the Save Our Schools Act has raised a mere $1,500.i