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legalization | 01.01.2022

Who Is Funding California’s Controversial Prop 64?

There’s seemingly no end to the controversy surrounding California’s Prop 64, the state’s ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis.

There’s seemingly no end to the controversy surrounding California’s Prop 64, the state’s ballot initiative to legalize recreational cannabis. On November 8, millions of voters in the Golden State will determine if pot is permitted for adults 21 and older. But do the citizens of the nation’s most populous state understand the sources of funding for the vocal media campaigns striving to lure their votes?


Examining the numbers

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According to the State of California’s Quick Guide to Propositions, $20 million has been contributed toward passage of Proposition 64, while only $2.5 million has been invested in defeating it.

Billionaire tech titan Sean Parker has given $6.25 million to help pass Proposition 64. He is the largest single contributor to the ballot initiative. The Fund for Policy Reform has contributed $4.9 million and qualifies as the second largest donor to date.

With nearly ten times more money than the opposition, it’s no wonder that the latest polls are predicting that Proposition 64 will pass.

Polls match money

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A Field Poll released in September by the Institute for Governmental Studies indicated that 60% of voters are in favor of the ballot initiative.

However, a more recent survey released on October 17 by SurveyUSA found 51% in favor and 40% opposed (the same survey in September indicated 52% in favor). This is the most pessimistic polling for Proposition 64 to date, but still indicates a probable win for the measure.

Biggest opponent of Prop 64

The biggest opponent of Proposition 64, at least from a financial position, is Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). The controversial group, led by anti-cannabis crusader Kevin Sabet, has contributed only $860,000 to date. This represents less than 5% of what has been donated to pass the proposition.

If there is one thing we agree on with legalization advocates, it’s that California is important. –  Sabet

Small farmers unorganized

The problem with assuming that Proposition 64 will pass is not understanding that one of its largest blocks of opposition is small and midsized cannabis farmers located in the northern part of the state.

These farmers, 10,000 strong in Humboldt County alone, are largely unorganized. Many pot farmers have no doubt channeled contributions into mainstream anti-Prop 64 efforts. However, their outspoken voices will truly be heard at the voting booth in early November.


Powerful predictions

Despite the funding advantage, some leaders in the legalization movement warn against assumptions of a Proposition 64 victory.

California polling is good, but we can’t take anything for granted. –  Rob Kampia, director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington, D.C.

Even California’s lieutenant governor, Gavin Newsom, is behind Proposition 64. However, Newsom warned caution on the part of supporters. And he should know; his wife is opposed to legal pot.

It’s not a done deal by any stretch of the imagination. – Newsom

Others feel strongly that Prop 64 will pass without question, most notably leaders of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws).

I think, without question, we are going to win California. I really do believe that is the ultimate tipping point for this issue nationwide. – Keith Stroup, founder of NORML

It’s overkill. I’ve been predicting this would be a slam dunk ever since Colorado and Washington legalized in 2012. – Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML, when referring to the Proposition 64’s funding advantage.

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