Top legalization campaign donors of 2020

Published Oct 30, 2020 09:00 a.m. ET
iStock / Aleksandr_Kravtsov

In the last presidential race of 2016, we saw cannabis prohibition groups fighting federal marijuana legalization that were swimming in funds. However, today, just weeks from election day in the U.S., the opponents for legalization are strapped for cash.

Last round

Campaign donors like Casino Cagnate Sheldon Adelson spent millions of dollars in a failed effort to derail legalization. He had the company of a Virginia based philanthropist Julie Schauer, and she donated thousands of her dollars to legalization opponents. Boatloads of money from the maker of the opioid fentanyl, pharmaceutical giant Insys were used to destroy the adult-use legalization initiative in Arizona.

This time

Sheldon Adelson has contributed no monies this time to fight against legalization. The 2020 campaign donors list also does not include Julie Schauer. She has been observed donating to an opposition group, Don’t Let New Jersey Go to Pot, with a 500-dollar contribution. Insys' political days were dead in the water when John Kapoor, the founder, was sentenced to five-year prison detention for fraud and bribery. Several of his executives have also been charged and convicted.

According to public campaign finance data, the states with marijuana legalization measures on the 2020 election ballot are hurting for cash. Legalization campaigns, however, do not appear to be suffering from cash droughts. Advocates for adult-use legalization in Montana have raised more than seven million green dollars, and Arizona to date has raised about 3.5 million dollars, while the medical cannabis campaign in Mississippi has surpassed the million-dollar mark.

States and their list of donors for the 2020 presidential race

  1. Arizona – Smart & Safe Arizona, who is running the campaign for Prop 207, has received the bulk of donations from marijuana companies. Legalization advocates have raised almost 3.5 million dollars.
  • Harvest, the Arizona-based medical cannabis company, is the most significant donor and has given almost 1.5 million dollars.
  • The retail store Curaleaf, which has dispensaries in 23 states, has contributed 600,000 dollars.
  • Cresco Labs, the marijuana company, which is licensed in six states, has donated 300,000 dollars.
    While looking at the results this past week, campaign officials have noticed an upswing in donations from in-state medical cannabis companies.
  1. Montana – The Montana campaign has raised the most money of any state campaign within this year. Tandem legalization measures are on the ballot, including constitutional Initiative 118 and Initiative 190, which work together to legalize adult marijuana use
  • New Approach Montana has raised almost 7 million dollars as of September.
  • The North Fund, a DC-based PAC organization, has donated nearly 5 million dollars. This organization supports progressive causes. Disclosing donors in this fund is not required by law.
  • Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has contributed to the campaign 100,000 green dollars.
  1. Oregon – The two novel legalization measures, Measure 109 and 110, would see the legalization and regulation of medical use of psilocybin. The Measures would also see the decriminalization of all drugs while revamping Oregon’s drug recovery services system. Two national groups are at the top of the donation list.
  • The New Approach PAC has backed many successful marijuana legalization campaigns. 2.5 million dollars have been donated for Measure 109
  • The Drug Policy Action, the Drug Policy Alliance's political arm, who are legally separate and by law must comply with the federal campaign finance laws, has delivered 3.4 million green dollars to the Measure 110 cause.
  • Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, the foundation that is founded by Priscilla and her husband Mark Zuckerberg, donated 500,000 dollars for the Measure 110 cause.
  • ACLU of Oregon has provided 100,000 dollars for the Measure 110 cause.

Megadonor Sheldon Adelson, according to Politico, has contributed 75 million dollars to a pro-Trump PAC, suggesting that he is not focused on dividing monies among other causes, but instead, chooses to channel his money to assisting the re-election of Trump.

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