In the run-up to Election Day, at least two Michigan television stations pulled political ads promoting false claims about the state’s ultimately successful marijuana legalization measure, cannabis reform advocates told Marijuana Moment.
The ads, paid for by prohibitionist committee Healthy and Productive Michigan (HAPM), attempted to stoke fears about legalization, incorrectly claiming that the initiative would allow for “unlimited potency” cannabis products.
“Legalized marijuana allows ice creams, cookies and candies with unlimited potency, making its way into our schools and playgrounds, putting the lives of our children and grandchildren at stake,” the ad states.
But that claim was fact-checked by the pro-legalization Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, which raised the issue with television and radio stations where the ads were being run. Two stations—WWMT and WPBN—decided to pull the ads, according to committee treasurer Matthew Schweich, who also served as deputy director for the national Marijuana Policy Project.
“I pointed out that Proposal 1 required that the regulator, the Michigan department of licensing and regulatory affairs, set a maximum potency level for edibles per Section 8 of the initiative,” Schweich said. “I felt it was necessary to prevent Healthy and Productive Michigan from misleading voters through the use of demonstrably false claims.”
The paid-for ad spots were seemingly then filled by another one of HAPM’s ad, which features former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb encouraging a “no” vote on legal cannabis.
Much of the footage appears to be from the same shoot that prohibition advocates used in advertisements against Arizona’s 2016 marijuana legalization ballot measure, suggesting that opponents of the Michigan proposal were in quite a scramble to find a replacement for their state-specific ad that TV stations would no longer air.
“It is somewhat uncommon for TV stations to pull political ads and this is the first time I’ve seen it happen on the six marijuana reform initiatives in which I’ve been involved over the past four years,” Schwich said. “It is representative of the dishonest campaign that prohibitionists ran in Michigan.”
All told, the anti-legalization committee spent about $340,000 on broadcast television ads—in addition to another roughly $350,000 on cable television ads—and the two stations that pulled the spot in question accounted for about one-third of the total over-the-air spend, according to Schweich.
Marijuana Moment reached out to the anti-legalization committee—as well as prohibitionist group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, which provided significant contributions to HAPM and also promoted the ad—for comment, but did not hear back by the time of publication.
The “unlimited potency” ad wasn’t the HAPM’s only attempt to persuade the public to vote against full legalization in Michigan. In another ad, the group’s president makes misleading claims about the impact of reform on traffic safety, falsely conflating active impairment from marijuana with the presence of cannabis metabolites in drug tests, for example.
And then there were a handful of generic anti-legalization ads like this one that relied chiefly on fear-mongering.
Representatives for the Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns both Michigan television stations, also were not immediately available for comment.
Reports from Friday’s filing deadline for Michigan campaign committees show that, of the five committees formed to support or oppose the state’s marijuana legalization ballot measure, three of the groups are still actively receiving and spending money.
The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a pro-reform group, reported a total of $529,277 in contributions in the last three months. More than $460,000 of that (87 percent) came from three sources.
New Approach PAC, a national group that has supported cannabis ballot measures in other states in past election cycles, contributed $351,000 from August through mid-October. That’s in addition to a late contribution report filed on Friday 6 to the tune of $67,500. The PAC had also contributed $165,000 from May through July, 2018.
The national pro-legalization organization Marijuana Policy Project provided $110,000 this quarter, building on previous donations this year of $444,205.
The only donation of over $5,000 from an individual came from Rick Steves, a travel writer and cannabis reform advocate, who contributed $50,000. Steves has been attacked by prohibition groups for his efforts in Michigan and North Dakota. The remaining smaller donations came from 126 individuals.
Prohibitionist group Healthy and Productive Michigan (HAPM) reported contributions of $1,086,370. More than $650,000 of that came from the national anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM). SAM also provided $128,338 worth of in-kind services in the last quarter, having already provided $500,000 in in-kind services previously in 2018.
Energy corporations and their executives were also heavy contributors to HAPM, with Michigan Energy First donating $250,000 to the cause. The chairman of DTE Energy, Gerard Anderson, donated $50,000—and Jerry Norcia, the company’s president and COO, donated $15,000. The president of DTE Electric, Trevor Lauer, donated $2,500, as did Mark Stiers, president of DTE Gas.
Other executives who made sizable contributions to HAPM include Meijer Grocery Vice Chairman Mark Murray, who donated $50,000. And J.C. Huizenga of Huizenga Group put in $51,000.
Beyond the $1.1 million disclosed in the October 26 report, the group provided individual late contributions of $125,000. $50,000 of that came from Business Leaders for Michigan, with another $50,000 from ITC Holdings. Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee donated $15,000, and billionaire William Parfet donated $10,000.
The group originally recorded a late contribution report that they had received $600,000 from AdVictory LLC. But the Associated Press’s David Eggert tweeted on Friday morning that the company had informed him this was a filing error, and that they had in fact been the recipient of funds to create ads for HAPM. The PAC reported $40,000 in payments to AdVictory in their July filings to the Secretary of State, but no payments in the October filing. In a revised contribution report, AdVictory was removed from contributors.
Three other committees showed little or no activity. Abrogate Prohibition Michigan said it had received $23 and spent $22. The Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools filed a report indicating they had neither received or spent any funds in the past quarter.
MI Legalize 2018, another pro-legalization PAC, reported that it had raised $22,319 in the most recent funding quarter. Unlike the other PACS, its donations came mainly from small donors. Mark Sellers, the Owner of Barfly ventures, which operates a set of restaurant and bars, contributed $10,000. Another individual contributed $5,000. The remaining contributions came from 106 additional individuals, who donated an average of $69.05 each.
As for how much the committees have left of the funds they’ve raised, two have substantial sums to spend. In its Friday report, Healthy and Productive Michigan declared that it had $697,268 left in the bank. With the late contributions reported, it potentially has $827,268 on hand to spend in the last week and a half before Michigan voters go to the polls. Meanwhile, The Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol reported $151,264 in the bank, so with late contributions, has $218,764.
MILegalize2018 disclosed a $9,462 balance, while the Committee to Keep Pot Out of Neighborhoods and Schools reported $3,075 on hand. Abrogate Prohibition Michigan has spent everything it brought in, leaving them with $2.98.
In separate contributions that haven’t yet been officially reported, the Drug Policy Alliance also recently pledged $25,000 to the Michigan legalization measure, in addition to contributions to North Dakota’s legalization campaign and a half dozen candidates who back marijuana policy reform.
See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below: