Days Before A Vote, New Jersey’s Legalization Campaign Tops $2 Million in Contributions

Days before Election Day, a New Jersey state ballot question that would “greenlight” adult use cannabis legalization has pulled in $2.1 million in contributions.

Two entities, Building Stronger Communities Action Fund Inc and NJ Can 2020, raised the majority of these funds. Who gave to these groups? 

Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, the national seed and pesticide company, gave $700,000 to the Building Stronger Communities group, while another $300,000 recently flowed in from Growing Economic Opportunities (Laborers). 

On the NJ Can front, the majority of the funds (~$535,000) came from the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey. Other contributors include Weedmaps ($162,000), the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union ($125,000), the New Approach PAC (~$49,000), Drug Policy Action ($25,000), and  multi-state cannabis operator Acreage Holdings ($20,000).

The opposition raised just $9,913, according to the latest ELEC records, released Thursday. 

“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,” Jeff Brindle, executive director of New Jersey’s Election Law Enforcement Commission, said in a statement.  

The legalization initiative ranks eighth in the amount of funding various initiatives have generated; the top is a 2016 referendum related to casinos in northern New Jersey that ultimately failed, but raised roughly $25 million. 

Lawmakers voted in December, 49-21-1 in the Assembly and 24-16 in the Senate, to send the question of whether to legalize to voters. “Putting the issue to a referendum is both sensible and equitable. While not our preferred method of legislating, public questions allow voters to affirm or deny massive shifts in public policy,” Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin said in a statement after the vote. 

This came after lawmakers tried and failed to pass legalization through the legislature. 

At the time, Governor Phil Murphy said, “Certainly I am disappointed, but we are not defeated. Our current drug policy regime has stifled opportunity and economic development,” adding, “We will stay in the fight and we will ultimately get there.” 

In the waning days of former Governor Jon Corzine’s term, Corzine signed a medical medical cannabis bill in 2010. The program languished under former Governor Chris Christie’s leadership, but has taken off in recent years. Now, there is a great deal of interest in adult use legalization. As Brindle highlighted, the lobbying spend on cannabis in New Jersey is noteworthy. 

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

More Days Before A Vote, New Jersey’s Legalization Campaign Tops $2 Million in Contributions