The 2016 Cannabis Legalization Efforts Need Financial Support from the Cannabis Industry
Virtually every day I wake up and see stories on social media about how hard the cannabis industry is crushing it. The numbers are staggering, and just keep climbing.
More and more states have reformed cannabis laws, which has created lucrative opportunities for cannabis companies. With more states voting on cannabis legalization in November, and support at an all time high nationwide, the good time should just get better, right?
The fact of the matter is, there is still a lot of time between now and the election. I was a public policy major in college, and if there's one thing that I know about politics, it's that it involves a lot of money.
"The two most important things in politics is money, and more money." my favorite professor in college (Dr. Dover, fantastic guy!) would always say. Cannabis politics is no different from any other area of politics in that regard.
How much will legalization efforts cost in 2016?
According to my good friend Anthony Johnson, who was the Chief Petitioner of the successful Oregon Measure 91 campaign, the 2014 Oregon effort cost roughly 4 million dollars.
People I have talked to from the Colorado and Washington efforts have told me those successful 2012 efforts came in at around 5 million dollars.
If you look at population sizes, you can get a rough idea of what it would take to legalize in the states that are voting on legalization in November.
It's far from an exact science, because media market advertising prices vary by state, especially in California, but it provides a starting point.
California is particularly problematic to estimate, because the media markets there are huge, there are so many of media outlets, and I'd assuming advertising space in those media markets is not cheap.
The best estimates I have heard from cannabis campaign experts, including leaders from successful campaigns in other states, is that it will cost between 18-20 million dollars to run a successful campaign in California.
Maine, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Nevada will be closer to what it cost in Oregon, Washington, and Colorado, as they are nothing like California in regards to population and media reach/rates.
I am still hopeful that the legal challenge in Michigan will prevail. Michigan activists have sued to try get the initiative on the ballot, claiming that signatures were improperly invalidated. Michigan would the sixth state to see legalization on the ballot in November if the legal challenge prevails.
Traditional donations are down: the cannabis industry needs to fill the void
I read a very interesting article on Vice recently, which looked at funding for the 2016 legalization efforts. The article had fantastic quotes from the Executive Directors of the Drug Policy Alliance (Ethan Nadelmann) and the Marijuana Policy Project (Rob Kampia).
Fundraising is down 25 percent for the Marijuana Policy Project, apparently in part due to the passing of historically large funders such as Peter Lewis. In the article, it is estimated that all the campaigns combined could require as much as 50 million dollars in order to win on Election Day.
Both organization leaders bemoaned the lack of financial support from the cannabis industry, with Ethan Nadelmann even dropping an F bomb in passionate fashion.
A recent survey released by Marijuana Business Daily found that only 26.8% of cannabis businesses had donated to a legalization campaign.
For a multi-billion dollar industry that is directly tied to political reform efforts, I find this more than soul crushing. Especially because it doesn't even take into account how much (or how little) some of those companies are actually donating when they do.
Will the lack of financial support from the industry doom 2016 efforts?
Cannabis legalization is very popular in America, and almost every poll I have seen has shown the November initiatives winning, with a few exceptions.
But will that translate to a victory on Election Day in the five states that are voting on legalization? There is a lot of time between now and voting day: a lot can happen in between now and then.
I have seen many states poll very well a couple of months prior to Election Day, just to see that support erode as opponents come out swinging.
Opponents are fighting to maintain the status quo, which means that they don't have to fight as hard or spend as much money to win, because after all, things are already how they like them to be with prohibition in place.
Legalization campaigns are receiving more money than opponents in states voting on legalization in 2016, but given they also have to spend more money, it doesn't mean as much as some people think.
Do you own a cannabis company? If so, have you donated to the campaign in your state if it's a state that is voting on legalization? For those that aren't in the cannabis industry, have you donated to a campaign? If not, why?
When you find out that a successful cannabis company hasn't donated to a campaign, how does that make you feel?
|less likely to buy their products/services||
|doesn't matter to me||