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Citizens Outspending Cops on Prop 19

The campaign to legalize marijuana is attracting much more money than opponents, but Tax Cannabis 2010 backer Richard Lee worries that it might not be enough.

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Hundreds of California citizens allied with the state's medical cannabis industry outspent law enforcement establishment by a ratio of five to one on the effort to roll back eighty years of pot prohibition in the now-broke Golden State. Campaign finance reports released last week show Tax Cannabis 2010 received $176,430 in monetary contributions from this period, which covers April 1 to June 30, 2010, and also received $37,609 in non-monetary contributions for a total of $214,040. The drug law reform group has an ending cash balance of $61,933 after expenditures.

Oakland businessperson Richard Lee's Oaksterdam University chipped in at least $40,000 during the reporting period and total overall contributions from the school now total $1.46 million. Medical cannabis groups like Berkeley Patients Group and delivery service The CannyBus also have donated funds. Jeff Wilcox and his marijuana cultivation corporation AgraMed, who pushed for cultivation permits in Oakland, donated to Proposition 19 as well as Councilwoman Nancy Nadel, who gave $125. NORML's Dale Gieringer gave more than $10,000, while George Zimmer of the Men's Warehouse contributed another $500 to his total contributions of $20,500.

The large volume of contributions came from hundreds of regular citizens across the state and country who are employed as teachers and engineers. One Stinson Beach. resident listed his occupation as "alchemist."

California's official law enforcement opposition group, known as Public Safety First, reported about $61,000 in contributions. The largest donors: the California Police Chiefs Association, which gave $30,000, and the California Narcotics Officer's Association, which contributed $20,000. Public Safety First's largest expenditure to date has gone to campaign consultants the Wayne Johnson Agency in Sacramento. Public Safety First has about $18,000 cash on hand. A RAND Corporation study showed California would spend roughly $300 million less on law enforcement and incarceration if it stopped arresting about 60,000 Californians for pot each year.

As previously reported, about $100,000 in new funds supporting Prop 19 has come from an East Coast libertarian who formed the Drug Policy Alliance Network Committee to Tax and Regulate Marijuana. All other groups supporting and opposing Prop 19 did not e-file campaign finance reports, indicating negligible funds.

Lee has said it could take $10 million to wage an advertising campaign on behalf of the measure, which is either winning or losing by a few points, depending on poll methodology. He recently told AlterNet that fund-raising for the campaign was "off-track," and that a one-on-one grassroots campaign would replace costly ad buys.

Cannabis Cash in Mayor's Race

The city of Oakland's mainstreaming of medical marijuana has extended to its mayoral races, where leading cannabis dispensaries, hydroponics stores, and the Prop 19 campaign are showing up in campaign finance disclosures for mayoral candidates Rebecca Kaplan, Jean Quan, and Don Perata.

Tax Cannabis 2010 volunteer coordinator Jennifer Hall donated the maximum personal amount of $700 to Kaplan's campaign, as did Dan Rush of the UFCW Local 5 who recently helped unionize Oaksterdam. Potential Oakland cultivator Jeff Wilcox of AgraMed also donated the maximum of $700 to Kaplan, while dispensary Green Mind Gardens of El Cerrito donated a symbolic $420 and UFCW Local 5's political action committee donated $250.

As for Quan, she received $700 from Oakland hydroponics retailer iGrow. Owner Dhar Mann has also expressed interest in obtaining a coveted cultivation permit.

And longtime Oakland politico Don Perata received $400 this year and $100 last year from SK Seymour LLC, which is Oaksterdam owner Lee's company. Lee also donated $10,000 last year to a cancer initiative set up by Perata. AgraMed employee Martin Kaufman donated $700 this year to the Perata campaign. Interestingly, natural enemies of medical cannabis like cops and pharmaceutical companies also donated to Perata. The Peace Officers Research Association of California gave $1,300 to Perata through their PAC, and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers Association of America chipped in $600 to Perata's mayoral campaign.

Can 'Just Say Now' Pot The Vote?

A new national campaign to legalize adult use of cannabis launched last week, called "Just Say Now." The DC-based group intends to turn out the youth vote this November in states where marijuana is an issue, including California. 2010 is a midterm election, meaning a significant drop-off in the liberal voters who elected Obama in 2008, but Just Say Now aims to counter that trend by unleashing the group Students for Sensible Drug Policy on college campuses.

Weed may be a wedge issue that turns out youth voters in states where it matters, says This Is Your Country on Drugs author Ryan Grim on the Huffington Post. Additionally, Congressman Barney Frank told The New York Times that national decriminalization/legalization is less than five years away.

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