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With days left, marijuana opponents struggle to raise cash

Pro-legalization groups raise more than $2 million. Single opposition group brought in just $9,913

By Nikita Biryukov, October 29 2020 11:00 am

With just five days remaining until the election, supporters of a referendum that would legalize recreational marijuana have massively outspent and outraised opponents.

Two pro-legalization groups raised nearly $2.1 million through Oct. 20, while the Don’t Let NJ Go to Pot, the lone group opposing the legalization ballot question, has raised just $9,913, according to the Election Law Enforcement Commission.

“Assuming all available funds are spent, the marijuana ballot question already ranks eighth among the top ten most expensive public referenda in the Garden State,” ELEC Executive Director Jeff Brindle said.

NJ CAN 2020, a pro-legalization group backed by the New Jersey Branch of the American Civil Liberties Union, raised nearly $1.1 million through Oct. 20, its fundraising buoyed in part by a $200,000 donation from the NJ ACLU.

The Building Stronger Communities Action Fund, a pro-marijuana group backed by Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, raised just over 1 million.

The legalization ballot question won’t go down as the state’s most expensive, but it might crack the top five.

“There is virtually no chance we will see a new record this year given the nearly $27 million price tag of the 2016 referendum on a proposed casino in Northern New Jersey,” Brindle said. “It is possible this year’s ballot question may make it into the top five when the final expenses are tallied.”

A ballot question that allowed simulcasting at state race tracks approved in 1985 cost a little more than $2.4 million, with inflation taken into account. It was the fifth most expensive referendum in the state.

The costs balloon further up the list. The fourth most expensive referendum had a price tag of $3.5 million.

Marijuana legalization could beat that figure, but only if lobbying conducted in past years is included.

“Keep in mind that marijuana interests already have spent $4.1 million on lobbying between 2017 and 2019,” Brindle said. “So, the industry’s overall political investment in New Jersey already has topped $6 million.”

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