With cannabis prohibition facing numerous challenges at the ballot box this November, there’s a lot for pro marijuana advocates to get excited about. Five states are considering cannabis legalization, while two more will potentially move to legalize medical use. But for the nation as a whole, there’s only one ballot measure that matters when it comes to the cannabis industry: California’s Proposition 64.
California began its ongoing tango with legalization in 1996, when voters approved Proposition 215, opening the door to the nation’s first legal experiment with medical marijuana. Despite this early success, in 2010, California voters defeated Proposition 19, the state’s first attempt at recreational legalization, with 53.5% of voters rejecting the measure. Though the measure was a setback to the cause of legalization in California, it was the opening salvo a renewed national effort to end cannabis prohibition. Two years later, Colorado and Washington voters would approve measure to legalize and regulate cannabis sales and cultivation, opening the doors to successful legalization campaigns elsewhere.
Today, polls on Proposition 64 disagree about only one thing: just how big its victory will be. No major poll has showed the Proposition losing. Recent polls show it ahead with anywhere from 51% to 71% of voters supporting the measure. The most recent publically available polling data, from the Public Policy Institute of California, shows 55% support.
Although contributions in support of Proposition 64 have come from a wide base, one notable name tops the donor rolls. Of more than 22 million dollars raised, about 8.5 million dollars came from Sean Parker, founder of Napster and former president of Facebook.
Opponents of the Proposition are not able to muster the same financial resources, but have drawn significant support from one source. According to the State of California, about 1.3 million dollars came from Julie Schauer, a millionaire retired art professor who does not live in California. The contributions came from a trust in her name registered in Pennsylvania, but according to her unverified twitter account, she is based in Washington, DC.
According to Fortune magazine, Schauer claims that the 1.3 million figure has been misreported by the State of California and was intended to be spread across the five states considering legalization this month. In either case, the sum represents a significant proportion of the more than two million dollars raised by the ‘no’ campaign.
Schauer has stated on her (unverified) Twitter account that “marijuana was the drug of choice of the Tsaranaev Brothers” and that “so many murderers use pot.”
But despite Schauer’s efforts, consumers – whether murderous or otherwise – are soon likely to approve recreational cannabis use. Check back tomorrow for Part Two, in which we’ll consider the reasons why cannabis legalization in California is likely to have an outsized impact on markets nationwide.