Michigan’s Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaigns Heat Up, Latest Finance Filings Show

Michigan’s Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaigns Heat Up, Latest Finance Filings Show

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:

Michigan’s Marijuana Ballot Initiative Campaigns Heat Up, Latest Finance Filings Show

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants ‘Mandatory Assessment’ For Consumers

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants ‘Mandatory Assessment’ For Consumers

Since being founded in 2013, anti-legalization organization Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) has consistently presented itself as supporting a balanced middle-ground approach between incarceration for consumers and the commercialization of cannabis. But it has never clearly described what it thinks police and government agencies should do to people caught possessing marijuana instead of putting them behind bars or just ignoring them.

Until now.

In a new document uploaded to SAM’s website last week, the group lays out “several key points to be addressed in model legislation” for cannabis at the state level.

Chief among them:

“Require mandatory assessment of problem drug use by a treatment professional after the first citation; those who are diagnosed with a substance use disorder can be diverted into a treatment track where they receive the appropriate level of care, those who are not problem users can be directed to social services for follow-up and addressing other life factors contributing to drug use.”

Let’s break that down.

If the police catch someone possessing a small amount of marijuana once, the person is directed to a “mandatory assessment of problem drug use.” If they are diagnosed as having a substance use disorder they are then forced to undergo treatment. If they refuse, presumably they’d be incarcerated or otherwise punished in some way.

But even if it is determined that the person is “not a problem” user, they still get directed to “social services” to dig into “other life factors” associated with their decision to consume cannabis.

“Project SAM, like U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, firmly believe that ‘good people don’t use marijuana,’” Paul Armentano, NORML’s deputy director, told Marijuana Moment after reading the prohibitionist organization’s proposal. “In SAM’s case, their overarching philosophy appears to be, ‘Only people with problems use marijuana.’”

“Clearly, SAM believes that marijuana use per se should be defined under the law as aberrant behavior requiring varying degrees of state intervention,” he said. “Such an approach perpetuates the needless stigmatization of marijuana and those who consume it, and is clearly at odds with the attitudes of the majority of the public who desire to see and end to these discriminatory and punitive public policies.”

SAM representatives did not respond to Marijuana Moment’s request for clarification about whether and how people would be punished for refusing mandatory assessments, treatment or participation in social services programs.

While the organization this year endorsed New Jersey decriminalization legislation that would require people caught with marijuana to undergo assessments, the new blog post appears to be the first time the group has made a considerable effort to articulate its favored alternative to cannabis legalization despite repeated promises over the course of years that it would “soon” release information about its policy aims beyond just impeding efforts to end prohibition.

Under the new plan, it appears that most people caught with marijuana would have to pay for treatment themselves.

But in a concession to legalization advocates who have pointed out that marijuana laws are often enforced more harshly against those from communities with lesser economic means, SAM does suggest waiving fines and treatment costs for people who don’t have the money to pay. They also say community service could be an alternative to shouldering the monetary costs for those with “severe financial hardship.”

Kevin Sabet, SAM’s president, has consistently said in interviews that he doesn’t seek to punish people for consuming or cultivating marijuana at home and is merely concerned with stopping “Big Marijuana” companies from commercializing addiction. But his organization has repeatedly opposed legislative proposals to allow possession and limited cultivation with no sales.

“You could grow a plant at home, actually. You could homegrow,” he said in a 2016 interview, for example. “You could do gifting. You could do a kind of decriminalization where basically we turn the other way.”

Nonetheless, the group opposed a 2014 ballot measure in Washington, D.C. to legalize low-level possession and homegrow, as well as legislation in Vermont this year to allow the same thing. Neither proposed to create a legal, commercialized cannabis sales market and instead allows adults to “gift” marijuana to one another in line with Sabet’s statement.

Both measures were enacted into law over SAM’s objections.

Perhaps tiring of standing on the sidelines yelling “no” to legalization to no avail, the group is finally preparing to try its hand in shaping policy. It remains to be seen if the new “model legislation” document leads to a more hands-on role in the cannabis legislative process for the prohibitionist organization.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants ‘Mandatory Assessment’ For Consumers

North Dakota’s Marijuana Legalization Supporters Outraised By Opponents, Filings Show

North Dakota’s Marijuana Legalization Supporters Outraised By Opponents, Filings Show

Despite growing interest in North Dakota’s marijuana legalization ballot measure among the state’s voters, it is groups and individuals from outside the state who are driving much of the funding on either side of the debate heading up to Election Day. And newly filed campaign finance reports show that opponents have far more resources on hand than do supporters of ending cannabis prohibition.

Measure 3, Marijuana Legalization and Automatic Expungement Initiative, would legally allow the recreational use of marijuana for people 21 years of age or older, including but not limited to “growing, manufacturing, distributing, selling or testing of marijuana.” It would also create an automatic process to expunge the criminal records of “individuals with convictions for a controlled substance that has been legalized.” The proposal was certified for the ballot in August, with advocates having collected 1,100 more valid signatures than the 13,452 required to place it before voters.

Two campaign committees have formed to support the legalization initiative.

LegalizeND registered with the North Dakota Secretary of State’s office on August 13, and Legalize North Dakota on September 5. The latter organization’s recently filed campaign finance report indicates that it has $1,600 on hand, but does not indicate where the money came from.

LegalizeND’s reports give a clearer picture. The group has received $9,457 in cash and $14,100 in in-kind donations. Over half of the cash ($5,652) came from donations of under $100.

The largest cash donation ($1,065) came from an individual in Minnesota. Two former North Dakota Libertarian candidates, Marty Riske and Eric Olson, donated $3,350 and $2,000 in-kind, respectively.

National legalization organization NORML has donated $2,538 worth of in-kind services and materials, and celebrity chef-turned-marijuana-activist Rick Steves is reported as providing $5,803 as an in-kind donation, as part of his visit to North Dakota last week to drum up support for the initiative.

Meanwhile, on the anti-legalization side, 100 percent of reported contributions to Healthy and Productive North Dakota (HAPND) have come from a single source: national anti-marijuana lobbying group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), based in Alexandria, Virginia. Resources on the group’s website also point to documents created by SAM. HAPND, which registered September 27, submitted reports showing a total of $156,234 from SAM, with $100,156 of that as in-kind services or resources.

SAM emphasized its efforts in the state in a fundraising email on October 9, which stated:

“Chief of Staff, Luke Niforatos, and our Marijuana Accountability Coalition coordinator, Justin Luke Riley, kicked off our formal campaign – Healthy and Productive North Dakota – and we launched a series of billboards and social media ads in key North Dakota markets… The marijuana industry is going all-in for the states in which it is working to legalize. They are salivating at the opportunity to expand their profit-driven scheme in a new state.”

Business groups from within North Dakota formed a separate anti-measure committee, North Dakotans Against the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana (NDALRM). The group, which registered on September 4, is managed by Matt Gardner, the director of government affairs for the Greater North Dakota Chamber.

The Chamber itself is the biggest donor to NDALRM, thus far committing $30,000. The North Dakota Retail Association and Associated General Contractors of North Dakota have each put in $10,000. Sporting goods chain Scheels has donated $8,500, and its CEO Steve Scheel personally contributed $10,000. Oil man Fred Evans put in $10,000 as has the North Dakota Petroleum Council. The North Dakota Motor Carriers Association ponied up $5,000, and North Dakota Beer Wholesalers contributed $2,500. And State Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem (R) chipped in $1,000.

In total, NDALRM has raised $116,200 in cash, including $2,250 in donations under $100 each. In its October 5 report, the group reported spending only $38,490 thus far. LegalizeND meanwhile reported that it had spent all but $25 of its cash as of October 5, and hasn’t reported any cash donations of over $500 since then. That means it’s likely North Dakota voters will be seeing a lot more anti-Measure 3 advertisements and other materials than paid communications supporting legalization in the remaining weeks before they head to the polls.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

North Dakota’s Marijuana Legalization Supporters Outraised By Opponents, Filings Show

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Campaign Finance Transparency, Kind Of

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Campaign Finance Transparency, Kind Of

A leading anti-legalization group is cooking up a new follow-the-money tool, ostensibly to track contributions from the marijuana industry to lawmakers.

At least, that seems to be what Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) is doing with this interactive map on its website:

SAM website screenshot

If you visit the page and click on a highlighted state, it brings you to a list naming select members of Congress, the district they represent and an undefined monetary “amount.”

SAM website screenshot

Presumably, this is a beta version of something that SAM has been talking about for some time.

Take last year, for example. A group of 44 U.S. House members signed a letter to the chairman of a key subcommittee, asking that language restricting the Department of Justice from interfering in state marijuana programs be included in an appropriations bill. In response, SAM president Kevin Sabet announced plans to “investigate campaign contributions” of signees.

“Legalization is about making a small number of people very rich,” Sabet said in a press release. “For them, it’s all about the money.”

“The representatives who sign on to this letter will be investigated, and any ties to the pot industry lobby will be exposed. There’s a money trail behind further relaxation of federal marijuana laws, and it points to politicians who have taken money from the next big addictive industry.”

It’s admittedly difficult to follow the money using the current version of SAM’s online map, though. There are few citations showing where the group’s information is coming from, and for most states, when you click on one of the hyperlinked “amounts,” it takes you here:

SAM website screenshot

For some reason, nearly every hyperlinked amount points to a URL apparently meant for Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), and the page only shows a 404 error message.

At least one state, Washington, seems to be mostly functional.

SAM website screenshot

SAM website screenshot

SAM representatives did not respond to a request for comment by the time of publication, but they do appear to have slightly edited the webpage after receiving Marijuana Moment’s inquiry. The title “The Money Trail: Where Big Pot Meets Big Politics” was added above the map, and the phrase “(Work In Progress)” was appended to all sub-pages.

This story will be updated if the organization sends comment.

What SAM appears to be interested in accomplishing is drawing links between campaign contributions from cannabis industry interests and politicians who’ve come to embrace marijuana reform. Or in other words, campaign finance transparency.

Missing from that agenda, though, is disclosure of SAM’s own finances—a subject of particular interest to advocates and reporters following the marijuana legalization debate.

Sabet touted the group’s financial expansion over the past two years in a recent curriculum vitae (not linked here, as it appears to reveal his personal phone number). A summary of Sabet’s work at SAM noted that the 12-person organization has a $1 million budget, with $4.5 million in reserve.

The group also recently opened a new office in Manhattan.

When this reporter asked Sabet about financial contributions to SAM in a 2016 interview, he emphasized the role of grassroots, individual contributions. There is limited public information available about SAM’s financing.

An FAQ published on SAM’s website states:

“SAM is funded by small family foundations (with no interest in the opioid, tobacco, alcohol, or prison industries) and individuals affected by drug use and its consequences. SAM does not receive a dollar from the opioid, pharmaceutical, alcohol, or tobacco industries – unlike some pro-legalization groups like Law Enforcement Action Partnership (LEAP), which takes money from Big Tobacco.”

Another potential source of ongoing funding may be past supporter Julie Schauer, a retired art professor who donated at least $1.3 million to SAM Action’s efforts to defeat 2016 marijuana ballot initiatives in California and other states.

It remains to be seen when SAM will officially launch its online campaign donation tracking tool and what its impact will be.

See the original article published on Marijuana Moment below:

Anti-Marijuana Group Wants Campaign Finance Transparency, Kind Of

Anti Marijuana Group Gets Facts Wrong, Issues Correction

Anti Marijuana Group Gets Facts Wrong, Issues Correction

The anti-cannabis group, Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM), has learned an important lesson about fact checking this week after issuing a press release which claimed, “heavy marijuana use [is] soaring among young people.”

On September 10, the same day that many media outlets published articles with headlines like, ” Teen Marijuana Use Holds Steady,” SAM issued a press release stating the exact opposite. Both sides were analyzing the same report issued by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

As seen in the screenshot of the release below, the group announced:

“Today, the Department of Health and Human Services found that heavy marijuana use among monthly users – defined as 20 or more days of marijuana use per month – significantly increased among 12-to-17 year-olds in 2014 compared to 2013.”

sam-press-release

Chris Ingram of the Washington Post was the first person to realize the mistake, and notify SAM’s director, Kevin Sabet. According to Ingram, Sabet’s team mistakenly reported the stat tables which analyzed the margins of error in the study, instead of the actual results.

The real numbers (shown in the screenshot below), show that the amount of teens aged 12 to 17 using cannabis regularly is actually lower than it has been since 2009.

sam-graph

Although the group did issue a correction, it is likely that the false report reached some ears that the correction may not.

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