Sean Parker Marijuana Legalization Initiative Begins Campaign; Could Mean $1 Billion for California

Sean Parker. He's in the (weed) money.

Tech billionaire Sean Parker's effort to legalize recreational marijuana for adults in California is real. Whether it's spectacular or not is a matter of opinion, but as its organizers announced yesterday, it's funded. That means real campaign workers are collecting signatures to qualify for the November 2016 ballot. And if this works and voters approve the measure, it could mean big, big money for the state. 

The Adult Use of Marijuana Act would allow adults 21 and over to possess up to an ounce of cannabis and grow up to six mature marijuana plants. (Medical cannabis patients would still be allowed much more, depending on their county of residence.) Retail sales would be regulated and taxed at 15 percent. Commercial activity would be allowed, but localities would be allowed to opt out (as they often do).

All of that is old news. What's new is that the money is finally here — and all of it is big money, with no small donors. There's $1.25 million in the AUMA's campaign kitty — and, if legal weed is a real thing in the state, up to $1 billion in annual sales taxes, according to a state analysis (which suggests legal marijuana sales of over $7 billion).

[jump] Parker himself has plunked down an initial $500,000 to jumpstart the effort, records show, part of $1.25 million in initial campaign cash. That won't be nearly enough to get the job done, but that's more money than any other marijuana legalization hopefuls have produced to date.

In addition to the $500,000 from Parker — who, remember, donated $1 million to Gov. Jerry Brown's successful campaign for a water bond a couple years ago — the “Californians to Control, Regulate and Tax Adult Use of Marijuana while Protecting Children” campaign received $250,000 each from the political action committee founded by WeedMaps CEO  Justin Hartfield, the Drug Policy Alliance's political action committee, and from New Approach PAC, which is funded by cash from the heirs of the late Peter Lewis. 

It's all about the children, you see. And the money. But mostly the money. 

Cash from DPA and from New Approach helped fund the successful cannabis legalization measure in Oregon in 2014.

Most of the major legalization advocacy groups in America have coalesced behind the Parker initiative (named thus for months despite no obvious material involvement until today), including DPA and the Marijuana Policy Project.

The AUMA has also received endorsement from Richard Lee, the Oaksterdam University founder who bankrolled Prop. 19, whose campaign in 2010 failed but proved that marijuana legalization is a thing that could happen (and paved the way for the successful efforts in Colorado and Washington in 2012).

One major exception is California NORML and Reform California, the successor campaign to Prop. 19, which as of now is still trying to mount its own, separate campaign.

AUMA's official sponsors are Donald Lyman, a physician who told the Los Angeles Times that marijuana is bad for your health, and environmental attorney Michael Sutton.

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